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Significant Scots
Patrick Hume


HUME, PATRICK, first earl of Marchmont, a distinguished patriot and statesman, was born, January 13th, 1641. His original place in society was that of the laird of Polwarth, in Berwickshire, being the eldest son of Sir Patrick Hume of Polwarth, the representative of an old baronial family, by Christian Hamilton, daughter of Sir Alexander Hamilton of Innerwick. The subject of our memoir succeeded his father in 1648, while as yet a mere child; and was accordingly indebted to his excellent mother for the better part of his early education. He appears to have been, by her, brought up in the strictest tenets of the Presbyterian religion, which flourished, without any constraint upon its private exercise, during all his early years, till it was discountenanced by government after the Restoration. Sir Patrick, however, was not only an admirer of the form of worship enjoined by that religious system, but a zealous maintainer of its pretensions to a divine right, as the only true church of Christ; and this, it is said, was what first inspired him with the feelings of a patriot. Having been sent to parliament in 1665, as representative of the county of Berwick, he soon distinguished himself by the opposition which he gave, along with the duke of Hamilton and others, to the headlong measures of the government. In 1673, the king sent a letter to parliament desiring a levy of soldiers and money to support them, and the duke of Lauderdale moved that it be referred to the lords of the articles, who were always at the beck of government. This proposal, though strictly in accordance with the custom of the Scottish parliament, was opposed by the duke of Hamilton, who asserted that the royal wishes ought to be considered by the whole assembled representatives of the nation. On Sir Patrick Hume expressing his concurrence with the duke, he was openly pointed out to parliament by Lauderdale, as a dangerous person. Hereupon, Sir Patrick said, "he hoped this was a free parliament, and it concerned all the members to be free in what concerned the nation." In the ensuing year, he was one of those who went with the duke of Hamilton to lay the grievances of the nation before the king, whose delusive answer to their application is well known. It was not possible that a person who maintained so free a spirit in such an age could long escape trouble. In 1675, having remonstrated against the measure for establishing garrisons to keep down the people, he was committed by the privy council to the tolbooth of Edinburgh, as "a factious person, and one who had done that which might usher in confusion." After suffering confinement for six months in Stirling castle, he was liberated through the intercession of friends, but not long after was again confined, and altogether suffered imprisonment for about two years. The order for his liberation, dated 17th April, 1679, states that "he had been imprisoned for reasons known to his majesty, and tending to secure the public peace;" and adds, "the occasions of suspicion and public jealousy being over, he is ordered to be liberate." To continue our memoir in the words of Mr George Crawfurd, [Lives and Characters of the Officers of the Crown, and of the State in Scotland.] who had received information from Sir Patrick’s own mouth, "Finding after this that the ministers of state were most earnestly set on his destruction, and that he could not live in security at home, he went to England, and entered into a strict friendship with the duke of Monmouth, the earl of Shaftesbury, and the lord Russel, who was his near relation. With them he often met, and had many conferences on the state of Scotland, and what might be done there to secure the kingdom from popery and arbitrary power, in the event of a popish successor. But, as his lordship protested to me, there never passed among them the least intimation of any design against the king’s life, or the duke of York’s; that was what they all had an abhorrence of. But he said, he thought it was lawful for subjects, being under such pressures, to try how they might be relieved from them; and their design never went further."

Notwithstanding the pure intentions of this little band of patriots, the government, as is well known, was able to fasten upon them the charge of having conspired the deaths of the king and his brother; and to this infamous accusation, lord Russell fell a victim in England, and Mr Baillie of Jerviswood, in Scotland. It was on the 24th of December, 1684, that the latter individual suffered; before that time, Sir Patrick Hume, though conscious of innocence, had gone into hiding, being justified in that step by a degree of personal infirmity, which unfitted him for enduring imprisonment. The place selected for his concealment was the sepulchral vault of his family, underneath the parish church of Polwarth, about two miles front Redbraes castle, he generally resided. Here he lived for many weeks of the autumn of 1684, without fire and hardly any light, and surrounded by the ghastly objects which usually furnish forth such a scene. He was enabled, however, by the firmness of his own mind, and the affections of his amiable family, to suffer this dreary self-imprisonment without shrinking. No one knew of his concealment but his family, and one "Jamie Winter," a carpenter, of whose fidelity they had good reason to be assured. Having been provided with a bed through the aid of this humble friend, Sir Patrick depended for food and other necessaries upon the heroic devotedness of his daughter Grizel, who, thought only twelve years of age, nightly visited this dismal scene, without manifesting the least agitation either on account of real or imaginary dangers. Supported by such means, Sir Patrick never lost his cheerfulness of temper, but, on the contrary, could laugh heartily at any little incident detailed to him by his daughter. The noble child had no other means of obtaining his food, except by secreting part of what she had upon her own plate at the family meals. Her having one day secured an entire sheep’s-head, which her younger brother Alexander thought she had swallowed in a moment, supplied one of those domestic jests with which the fugitive father was entertained. While in this lonely place, Sir Patrick had no other reading than Buchanan’s psalms, which he conned so thoroughly, that he ever after had the most of them by heart. As the winter advanced, lady Polwarth contrived a retreat underneath the floor of a low apartment at Redbraes, and thinking that this might serve to conceal her husband in the event of any search taking place, had him removed to his own house, where he accordingly lived for some time, till it was found one morning, that the place designed for concealment, had become half filled with water.

Warned by this incident, and by the execution of his friend Mr Baillie, he resolved to remain no longer in his native country. It was projected that he should leave the house next morning in disguise, attended by his grieve or farm overseer, John Allan, who was instructed to give out that he was going to attend a horse-market at Morpeth. The party stole away by night, and had proceeded a considerable distance on their way, when Sir Patrick, falling into a reverie, parted company with his attendant, and did not discover the mistake till he found himself on the banks of the Tweed. This, however, was a most fortunate misadventure, for, soon after his parting with Allan, a company of soldiers that had been in search of him at Redbraes, and followed in the expectation of overtaking him, came up, and would have inevitably discovered and seized him, if he had not been upon another track. On learning what had happened, he dismissed his servant, and, leaving the main-road, reached London through bye-ways. On this journey he represented himself as a surgeon, a character which he could have supported effectually, if called upon, as he carried a case of lancets, and was acquainted with their use. From London he found his way to France, and thence after a short stay, walked on foot to Brussels, intending to converse with the duke of Monmouth. Finding the duke had gone to the Hague, he proceeded to Holland, but did not immediately obtain a conference with that ill-fated nobleman. He had an audience, however, of the prince of Orange, who, "looking on him (to use the words of Crawfurd,) as a confessor for the protestant religion, and the liberties of his country, treated him with a very particular respect."

On time death of Charles II., in February, 1685, and the accession of the duke of York, whose attachment to the catholic faith rendered him, in their eyes, unfit to reign, the British refugees in Holland concerted two distinct but relative expeditions, for the salvation of the protestant religion, and to maintain "the natural and native rights and liberties of the free people of Britain and Ireland, and all the legal fences of society and property there established." One of these expeditions was to land in England, under the duke of Monmouth, whose prosecution of his own views upon the crown, under the favour of the protestant interest, is well known. The other was to be under the conduct of the earl of Argyle, and was to land in Scotland, where it was expected that an army would be formed in the first place from his lordship’s Highland retainers, and speedily enforced by the malcontents of Ayrshire, and other parts of the Lowlands. Sir Patrick Hume has left a memoir respecting the latter enterprise, from which it clearly appears that Monmouth gave distinct pledges (afterwards lamentably broken,) as to the deference of his own personal views to the sense of the party in general,—and also that Argyle acted throughout the whole preparations, and in the expedition itself, with a wilfulness, self-seeking, and want of energy, which were but poorly compensated by the general excellence of his motives, and the many worthier points in his character. Sir Patrick Hume and Sir John Cochrane of Ochiltree, alike admirable for the purity and steadiness of their political views, were next in command, or at least in the actual conduct of affairs, to the earl. The sword of the former gentleman is still preserved, and bears upon both sides of its blade, the following inscription in German:

"Got bewarr die aufrechte Schotten,"

that is, God preserve the righteous Scots. It was not destined, however, that fortune should smile on this enterprise. The patriots sailed on the 2nd of May, in three small vessels, and on the 6th arrived near Kirkwall in the Orkney islands. The imprudent landing of two gentlemen, who were detained by the bishop, served to alarm the government, so that when the expedition reached the country of Argyle, he found that all his friends, upon whom he depended, had been placed under arrest at the capital. After trilling away several weeks in his own district, and affording time to the government to collect its forces, he formed the resolution of descending upon Glasgow. Meanwhile, Sir Patrick Hume and others were forfaulted, their estates confiscated, and a high reward offered for their apprehension. While Argyle was lingering at Rothesay, Sir Patrick conducted the descent of a foraging party upon Greenock, and, though opposed by a party of militia, succeeded in his object. Allowing as largely as could be demanded for the personal feelings of this gentleman, it would really appear from his memoir that the only judgment or vigour displayed in the whole enterprise, resided in himself and Sir John Cochrane. When the earl finalIy resolved at Kilpatrick to give up the appearance of an army, and let each man shift for himself, these two gentlemen conducted a party of less than a hundred men across the Clyde, in the face of a superior force of the enemy, and were able to protect themselves till they reached Muirdykes. Here they were assailed by a large troop of cavalry, and were compelled each man to fight a number of personal contests in order to save his own life. Yet, by a judicious disposition of their little force, and the most unflinching bravery and perseverance, Hume and Cochrane kept their ground till night, when, apprehending the approach of a larger body of foot, they stole away to an unfrequented part of the country, where they deliberately dispersed.

Sir Patrick Hume found protection for three weeks, in the house of Montgomery of Lainshaw, where, or at Kilwinning, it would appear that he wrote the memoir above alluded to, which was first printed in Mr Rose’s observations on Fox’s historical work, and latterly in the Marchmont papers, (1831.) The better to confound the search made for him, a report of his death was circulated by his friends. Having escaped by a vessel from the west coast, he proceeded by Dublin to Bourdeaux, where we find he was on the 15th of November. He now resumed his surgical character, and passed under the name of Dr Peter Wallace. Early in 1686, he appears to have proceeded by Geneva to Holland, where his family joined him, and they resided together at Utrecht for three years. The picture of this distressed, but pious and cheerful family, is very affectingly given by lady Murray, in the well-known memoirs of her mother, lady Grizel Baillie. They were reduced to such straits through the absence of all regular income, that lady Hume could not keep a servant, and Sir Patrick was obliged -- but this must have been a labour of love—to teach his own children. They were frequently compelled to pawn their plate, to provide the necessaries of life until a fresh supply reached them. Yet, even in this distress, their house was ever open to the numerous refugees who shared in their unhappy fate. Not forgetting political objects, Sir Patrick, in 1688, wrote a letter powerful in style and arguments, to put the presbyterian clergy in Scotland on their guard against the insidious toleration which king James proposed for the purpose of effecting the ascendancy of popery. In this document, which has been printed among the Marchmont papers by Sir G. H. Rose, we find him giving an animated picture of the prince of Orange, whom he already contemplated as the future deliverer of his country, and no doubt wished to point in that character to the attention of Scotsmen; "one," says he, "bred a Calvinist, who, for religious practice, excels most men so high in quality, and is equal to the most part of whatever rank of the sincere and serious in that communion; for virtue and good morals beyond many; those infirmities natural to poor mankind, and consistent with seriousness in religion, breaking out as little, either for degree or frequency, from him, as from most part of good men, and, not one habitual to him: one of a mild and courteous temper; of a plain, ingenuous, and honest nature; of a humane, gay, and affable carriage, without any token of pride or disdain; one educated and brought up in a republic as free as any in the world, and inured to the freedom allowed by and possessed in it. His greatest enemy, if he know him, or my greatest enemy, if he read this, must find his own conscience witnessing to his face, that what I have said is truth, and that I am one of more worth than to sully my argument with a flaunting hyperbole even in favour of a prince." The modern reader, who is acquainted with the picture usually drawn of the same personage by the English historians, will probably be startled at the gayety and affability here attributed to the prince; but, besides the unavoidable prepossession of Sir Patrick for a person who, it would appear, had treated him kindly, and stood in the most endearing relation to all his favourite objects in religion and politics, it must be allowed that, at an age which might be called youth (thirty-eight), and previous to his undertaking the heavy and ungrateful burden of royalty in Britain, William might have been better entitled to such a description than he was in the latter part of his life.

Before this time, the eldest son of Sir Patrick Hume, and his future son-in-law Baillie, had obtained commissions in the horse-guards of the prince of Orange, in whose expedition to England all three soon after took a part. These gentlemen were among those who suffered in the storm by which a part of the prince’s fleet was disabled; they had to return to port with the loss of all their luggage, which, in the existing state of their affairs, was a very severe misfortune. The little party appears to have speedily refitted and accompanied the prince at his landing in Devonshire, as we find Sir Patrick writing a diary of the progress to London, in which he seems to have been near the prince all the way from Exeter. In the deliberations held at London respecting the settlement of the new government, Sir Patrick bore a conspicuous part; but it was in Scotland that his zeal and judgment found a proper field of display. In the convention parliament, which sat down at Edinburgh, March 14, 1689, he appeared as representative of the county of Berwick; and, an objection being made on the score of his forfaulture, he was unanimously voted a member by the house. The decision of this assembly in favour of a settlement of the crown upon William and his consort Mary, soon followed.

The career of public service was now opened to the subject of our memoir, at a period of life when his judgment must have been completely matured, and after he had proved, by many years of suffering under a tyrannical government, how worthy he was to obtain honours under one of a liberal complexion. In July, 1690, his attainder was rescinded by act of parliament; he was soon after sworn a member of the privy council; and in December, 1690, he was created a peer by the title of lord Polwarth. The preamble of the patent is a splendid testimony to the eminent virtues he had displayed in asserting the rights and religion of his country. King William at the same time vouchsafed to him an addition to his armorial bearings, "an orange proper ensigned, with an imperial crown, to be placed in a surtout in his coat of arms in all time coming, as a lasting mark of his majesty’s royal favour to the family of Polwarth, and in commemoration of his lordship’s great affection to his said majesty."

From this period, the life of lord Polwarth is chiefly to be found in the history of his country. He was appointed in 1692, to be principal sheriff of Berwickshire, and in 1693, to be one of the four extraordinary lords of session. Though there is no trace of his having been bred to the law, his conduct in these two employments is said to have been without blemish. His reputation, indeed, for decisions conformable to the laws, for sagacity and soundness of judgment, is, perhaps, one of the most remarkable parts of the brilliant fame which he has left behind him. In 1696, he attained the highest office in Scotland, that of lord chancellor, and in less than a year after, he was promoted in the peerage by the titles, earl of Marchmont, viscount of Blassonberry, lord Polwarth, Redbraes, and Greenlaw, to him and to his heirs male whatsoever. He was soon after named one of the commission of the treasury and admiralty; and in 1698 was appointed lord high commissioner to represent the king’s person in the parliament which met at Edinburgh in July of that year. To pursue the words of Sir George Rose, who gives a sketch of the life of the earl in his preface to the Marchmont papers, "his correspondence with king William and his ministers, whilst he exercised these high functions, exhibits an earnest and constant desire to act, and to advise, as should best promote at once the honour of his master and benefactor, and the weal of the state; and he had the good fortune to serve a prince, who imposed no duties upon him which brought into conflict his obligations to the sovereign and to his country."

The earl of Marchmont was acting as commissioner at the General Assembly of 1702, when the death of his affectionate sovereign interrupted the proceedings, and plunged him into the deepest grief. He was appointed by queen Anne to continue to preside over the assembly till the conclusion of its proceedings; but the principles of this great man were too rigid to allow of his long continuing in office under the new government. In his letter to queen Anne, written on the death of king William, he was too little of a courtier to disguise the feelings which possessed him as a man, although he must have known that every word he used in admiration or lamentation of her predecessor must have been grating to her ears. In the first session of the parliament after her accession, he presented to it an act for the abjuration of the pretender; and, though it was in conformity to, and in imitation of the English act passed immediately on her ascending the throne, and was read a first time, the high commissioner adjourned the house in order to stop the measure. In a memorial to the queen of the 1st of July, 1703, (Marchmont Papers) will be found a full vindication of his conduct in this matter, and a statement of that held by his friends, and the commissioner, the duke of Queensberry, differing essentially from Lockhart’s. He was on this dismissed from his office of chancellor, the place being conferred on the earl of Seafield.

Having thus sacrificed his office to his principles, he pursued the latter in the ensuing parliaments with the consistency and fervour, which might have been expected from such a man. The protestant succession in the house of Hanover, and the union of the two divisions of the island under one legislature, were the two objects on which he now centered his attention and energies. It is hardly necessary to remind the reader that the general temper of the Scottish people was perversely opposed to both of these measures, and that it was only the minority of such consistent whigs as lord Marchmont, who, reposing more upon great abstract principles than narrow views of immediate advantage, saw them in their proper light, and gave them the weight of their influence. An attempt of the earl to introduce an act for the Hanover succession, at a time when his fellow statesmen were chiefly bent on asserting by the act of Security the abstract independence of their country, was so ill received that there was even some talk of consigning this noble patriot to the state-prison in Edinburgh castle. Afterwards, however, when the government of queen Anne was obliged to adopt the measure of a union, his lordship had the pleasure of contributing his aid—and most willingly was it rendered—towards what had been the grand object of his political life. The selection of the Scottish commissioners, upon which the whole matter hinged, was effected in obedience to a sagacious advice tendered by lord Marchmont.....namely, that they should be "the most considerable men, provided they were whigs, and therefore friends to the Revolution; but such alone, with disregard to their feelings respecting an incorporating union, as hostile to it or not." The reasonings he employed to enforce this principle of selection are to be found in the Marchmont Papers; and we learn from Lockhart to how great an extent they were acted on. Speaking of the commissioners, this gentleman says, that "all were of the court or whig interest, except himself," an ardent Jacobite, an exception only made in the hope of gaining him through his uncle, the whig lord Wharton. It is universally allowed that this principle, though the author of it has not heretofore been very distinctly known, achieved the union.

We are now to advert to a circumstance of a painful nature respecting the earl of Marchmont, but which we have no doubt has taken its rise either from error or from calumny. As a leader of the independent party in the Scots parliament...called the Squadrone Volante—it is alleged that his lordship was one of those individuals who were brought over to the government views by bribery; and Lockhart actually places the sum of 1104 pounds, l5s. 7d. against his name, as his share of the twenty thousand pounds said to have been disbursed by the English exchequer, for the purpose of conciliating the chief opponents of the measure. Sir George H. Rose has made an accurate and laborious investigation into the foundation of these allegations, from which it would not only appear that lord Marchmont has been calumniated, but that a very incorrect notion has hitherto prevailed respecting the application of the money above referred to. We must confess that it has always appeared to us a most improbable story, that, even in the impoverished state of Scotland at that time, noblemen, some of whom were known to entertain liberal and enlightened views, and had previously maintained a pure character, were seduced by such trifling sums as those placed against them in the list given by Lockhart. Sir George Rose has shown, to our entire satisfaction, that the sum given on this occasion to the earl of Marchmont was a payment of arrears due upon offices and pensions—in other words, the payment of a just debt; and that he is not blameable in the matter, unless it can be shown that receiving the payment of a debt can under any circumstances be disgraceful to the creditor. The best proof of his lordship’s innocence is to be found in his conduct at the union, and for years before it. It is clear from his letters to the English statesmen, that the union was an object which he constantly had at heart, and that so far from being drawn over by any means whatever to their views, he had in reality urged them into it with all his strength and spirit, and all along acted with them in the negotiations by which it was effected. Money does not appear to have been so abundant on this occasion, as to make it probable that any was spent, except upon opponents.

The earl of Marchmont offered himself as a candidate at the election of the Scots representative peers in 1707, and again on the dissolution of parliament in 1708, but in each case without success. He could scarcely calculate on the countenance of queen Anne’s government; for, if he had rendered it eminent services, he had also taught it how uncompromising was his adherence to his principles. Thus his parliamentary life ceased with the union. But his letters written subsequently to it give evidence that his mind was engaged deeply in all the events affecting the weal and honour of his country. Nor was his patriotism deadened by the insult and injury he received from the curt, when, at the accession of the tory ministry in 1710, he was deprived of his office of sheriff of Berwickshire, which was conferred on the earl of Home.

In 1703, lord Marchmont had the misfortune to lose his amiable and affectionate spouse, of the family of Ker of Cavers, to whose virtues he has left a very affecting testimony. In 1709, he suffered a hardly less severe calamity in the death of his eldest son lord Polwarth, a colonel of cavalry, who, beginning his service in king William’s body-guard, served through his wars and the duke of Marlborough’s with reputation, and died childless, though twice married. He was treasurer depute in 1696. His amiable and honourable character fully justified his father’s grief. The second brother Robert, also a soldier, died many years before him.

The accession of George I. gave to lord Marchmont what he called the desire of his heart, a protestant king upon the throne. He was immediately re-appointed sheriff of Berwickshire. In 1715, in the seventy-fifth year of his age, acting on the feelings and principles of his youth, he forbade a meeting of the gentlemen of the county, which had been proposed in the professed view of obtaining a redress of hardships, but which would have embarrassed the newly established government; and his lordship took the necessary precautions to render his prohibition effectual. When he saw the protestant succession secure, he gave up all thoughts of active life, and removed to Berwick-upon-Tweed, to spend the remainder of his days in retirement. He retained his cheerful disposition to the last. A short time before his death, he was visited by his daughter, lady Grizel Baillie, and his grand-children, who, with a number of his friends, had a dance. Being then very weak in his limbs he was unable to come down stairs, but desired to be carried down to see them; and, as pleasingly recorded by his grand-daughter, lady Murray, he was so much delighted with the happy faces he saw around him, that he remarked, "though he could not dance, he could yet beat time with his foot."

On the 1st of August, 1724, this illustrious patriot breathed his last at Berwick, in the eighty-third year of his age, leaving one of the most irreproachable characters which have come down to us from that time, if not from others of greater general virtue. He had become so reconciled to the prospect of death, that, though no doubt sensible of the solemn change which it was to produce, he could make it the subject of a gentle mirth. Being observed to smile, he was asked the reason by his grandson, the ingenious lord Binning, to whom he answered, "I am diverted to think what a disappointment the worms will meet with, when they come to me expecting a good meal, and find nothing but bones." Lord Marchmont, be it remarked, though at one time a handsome man, had always been of a spare habit of body, and was now much attenuated. His character has already been sufficiently displayed in his actions, and the slight commentaries we have ventured to make upon them. It is impossible, however, to refrain from adding the testimony of Fox, who, in his historical work, says of him, as Sir Patrick Hume, that "he is proved, by the whole tenor of his life and conduct, to have been uniformly zealous and sincere in the cause of his country."


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