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Significant Scots
William Lockhart


LOCKHART, (SIR) WILLIAM, of Lee, an eminent statesman under the Protectorate of Cromwell, was the third son of Sir James Lockhart of Lee, by Martha, daughter of Douglas of Mordingston. He was born in the year 1621, and received the earlier part of his education in Scotland, whence he proceeded to some one of the usual seminaries in Holland. He did not long remain in that country, but after visiting Scotland for a short period, joined the French army as a volunteer, and so far distinguished himself as to attract the attention of the queen mother, who procured for him a pair of colours. [Harding’s Biographical Mirror, iii. 54.] He subsequently accompanied lord William Hamilton to Scotland, and accepted the appointment of lieutenant-colonel in that nobleman’s regiment.

In the course of his military duty he was introduced to Charles I., at his surrender to the Scottish army before Newark. He was on this occasion knighted, and was afterwards employed to negotiate for the safety of the marquis of Moreton. Having joined in the enterprise of the duke of Hamilton, called the Engagement, he was taken prisoner in the unfortunate action at Preston, and after remaining a year in custody at Newcastle, regained his liberty at the serious cost (at that period) of one thousand pounds. Having attached himself to the house of Hamilton, he necessarily attracted the jealous notice of the rival nobleman, Argyle, and on several occasions subsequent to the arrival of Charles II. in Scotland, suffered, through its influence, a degree of contumely from the king, which roused his haughty spirit to exclaim, that "No king upon earth should use him in that manner." But while he did not conceive that he should suffer the insults of a king with more patience than those of any other man, his private feeling towards the nominal head of the government did not interfere with his duty to his country, and his services to the cause he had adopted as the best. He remained an officer in Charles’s army, and his regiment was distinguished for its services at the battle of Worcester. The cause of monarchy being now suppressed in both ends of the island, he remained for two years in retirement; but, weary of keeping in dormancy powers which he was aware might distinguish him in the service of the state, he repaired to London, and was welcomed by the Protector, who never permitted a man of Lockhart’s powers to remain unwillingly idle. From which side the advances were made appears not to be known; it was probably from that of Lockhart. This step is the more surprising as he had belonged to that party of the Scottish presbyterians which used to regard monarchy with most respect. On the 18th of May, 1652, he was appointed one of the commissioners for the administration of justice in Scotland, and in 1654, the Protector gave him one of his nieces in marriage, [Harding calls the niece ‘Robina Sewster.’ Noble thinks the lady whom Lockhart married was probably a daughter of Desborough, because secretary Thurloe writes to Lockhart, "H.H. (the Protector) doe very much rejoice to hear that your lady is in a way of recovery, and so doth general Desborough, and truly no more than yours, &c." –House of Cromwell, ii. 256. The following passage from the same source is perhaps more conclusive:—COLONEL LOCKHART TO SECRETARY THURLOE.

"When I had the honour to take leave of you, I had your permission to give you trouble in any business wherein I was concerned; therefore being engaged by articles of agreement with general Desbrowe to make a purchase in England for a settlement to my wife and her children, and the daie being elapsed, by which time I was bound either to make a purchase, or to secure so much money by way of mortgage upon land in England, I am bould to beseech you to move his highness, for leave to me for a month to come to London for settling that affair."&c. Edinburgh, December 25th, 1655.—Thurloe’s State Papers, iv. 342.] and raised him to the possession of the highest political influence in the land. In 1654 and 1656, he represented the shire of Lanark in Cromwell’s parliaments. He was also appointed one of the trustees for disposing of the forfeited estates of the royalists, and a member of the Protector’s privy council for Scotland.

On the 14th December, 1655, he was appointed ambassador from England to Louis XIV.; a duty which, at that dangerous period, when the British government was acknowledged abroad only from its strength, was eminently calculated to bring out the peculiar energies of his mind. He did not proceed on his mission until April, 1656; [Thurloe, iv., 647, 728.] a circumstance which probably accounts for his having sat for Lanark during that year. The character both of the government and its servant quickly secured respect "He was," says Clarendon, "received with great solemnity, and was a man of great address in treaty, and had a marvellous credit and power with the cardinal Mazarine. [History, vii., 180.]His countryman Burnet, who probably knew him better, says, "He was both a wise and gallant man, calm and virtuous, and one that carried the generosities of friendship very far. He was made governor of Dunkirk, and ambassador, at the same time. But he told me that when he was sent afterwards ambassador by king Charles, he found he had nothing of that regard that was paid him in Cromwell’s time." [Burnet’s Own Times, i. 76.] He arrived at Dieppe on the 24th of April, and was received with all the civic honours which the town could bestow. [Thurloe, iv., 739.] An alliance with France in opposition to Spain, and indeed anything resembling amity towards the former nation, was considered an anomaly in the British constitution resembling an infraction of the laws of nature, and the measure, although it was boldly undertaken, and successfully executed, has met the reprobation of historians, whose simple statement of its impolicy and folly is embraced in the terms, "An alliance between Great Britain and France." But the union was an act of almost diplomatic necessity on the part of the Protector, from the alliance (as it was termed) of Spain with the exiled Charles; and with whatever reluctance the French may have at first looked upon the novelty, Mazarine found himself associated with a government whose assistance was useful, and whose enmity might be dangerous.

From the influence of the clergy alone was any opposition to be dreaded. "I have receaved," says the ambassador, "many civill messages from persons of honour and good interest; and I fynd also, that my being here is much dislyked by others, especiallie by the assembly of the clergy. And," he continues, in the manner of the period, "I shall make it my endeavour to wait upon God for his directione and protectione, and shall verie little trouble myself with their menaces." But Lockhart found that the French were at least lukewarm in assisting the vast designs of Cromwell, and that they were naturally averse to be the mere auxiliaries of their natural enemies, in subjecting those neighbouring provinces which had often called forth the full power of their armies.

Lockhart, accordingly, takes many occasions to express the discontent of his energetic temper at the interruptions thrown in his way. Alluding to the cardinal’s conduct about the dispute which then divided France, he says—"as I have the opportunity of being at court, I shall endeavour to inform myself as fully as shall be possible for me, of what hath passed in this particular; and if I find, that the differences betwixt the cardinal and the prince are in any good way of accommodatione, I shall then persuade myself, that the cardinal (whatever pretences he hath had to the contrary,) intends a peace with Spayne in good earnest, and hath got over the greatest rub that was in his way: for in his discourses on that businesse, I found that the restoration of the prince stuck more with him than either the re-delivery of towns, or the leaving of his allye the Portugal, to the Spanyard’s mercy." [Thurloe, v. 441.]And, probably under the irritation of delay, he wrote to secretary Thurloe in June, saying, "I beg leave to discharge my conscience, by letting you know, that I am verie much convinced, that his highnesse affairs here doe infinitelie suffer by mismanagement. They doe requyre the addresse of a hande much more happie than myne; and therefore shall humbly beg, that you may be pleased to lett his highnesse knowe how much it concerns his interest hears that some other person be employed, whose parts and experience may be more suitable to this trust than myne are." [Thurloe, v. 120.] But Lockhart did not either give up his commission in discontent, or submit to be dallied with. Towards the termination of the year, he says in his despatches, "The audience my last told you I demanded and was promised, hath been defered till this evening, notwithstanding my endeavours to the contrary: and though it lasted from six o’clock at night till ten, yet I cannot say I had much satisfaction in it, for Mons. De Lion was with his eminence all the tyme, and by his presence necessitated my sylence in some particulars, that, if I had had the honour to entertain the cardinal by himself I durst have ventured upon. Howsoever, finding several particulars formerly agreed upon, questioned, and others absolutely denyed, I was guiltie of the rudenesse to tell his eminence that I did not understand such proceedure in businesse, and was astonished to meet so unexpected changes."[Thurloe, v. 574.] From remonstrances the ambassador proceeded to threats. It was the determination of the English that Mardyke and.Dunkirk should be taken and left in their hands; and in the commencement of the year 1657, "Lockhart," says Clarendon, "made such lively instances with the cardinal, and complaints of their breach of faith, and some menaces that his master knew where to find a more punctual friend, that as soon as they had taken Montmedy and St Venant, the army marched into Flanders: and though the season of the year was too far spent to engage in a siege before Dunkirk, they sat down before Mardyke, which was looked upon as the most difficult part of the work; which being reduced would facilitate the other very much; and that fort they took, and delivered it into the hands of Reynolds, with an obligation ‘that they would besiege Dunkirk the next year, and make it their first attempt.’" [History, vii. 212.]

Lockhart’s contest for the interests of Britain did not terminate after the capture of Mardyke: he accused the French of purposely leaving the town undefended, that the British might be compelled to raze the fortifications, and gain no advantage from their captures, while they weakened the enemies of France. He urged Turenne to proceed immediately to the siege of Dunkirk, then but ill defended, offering for the service 5000 veterans and 2000 recruits; but he had to wait until June, 1658, ere the design was put in practice. At this celebrated siege Lockhart commanded the British foot, with which he charged and routed those of Spain. "As to the siege of Dunkirk," says lord Fouconberg, "by the little discourse I have had with the duke de Crequy, chevalier Grammont, and others, I find they infinitely esteeme my lord Lockhart for his courage, care, and enduring the fatigue beyond all men they ever saw. These were their own words." [Thurloe, vii. 151.] When the fortifications had yielded to his efforts, and those of his illustrious coadjutor Turenne, he found himself still perplexed by the interruptions of the French: that the possession of so important and long-hoped-for an acquisition should be left to foreigners, was humiliating; and whatever respect they paid to Cromwell’s government, these might at least indulge the privilege of preventing their assistance from being so ample as it appeared. Almost unassisted, Lockhart was compelled with his small army immediately to put the place in a posture of defence, and complaining that he was "forced to buy the very palisades of the Fort-Royall; otherwayes the French, notwithstanding any order the king and cardinall can give, would pull them out; and not only burn them, but pull down the earthern works in taking them out." [Thurloe, 173.]

After the siege Lockhart was visited by commissary Mandossi, a person who, under pretence of paying some debts which the Spanish army had incurred during the siege, acted as an emissary from the marquis of Caracine, privately to discover the extent to which Lockhart might countenance an immediate treaty as the avenue to a peace; but the conquering general returned polite and haughty answers to the hints laid before him. He was appointed governor of Dunkirk, an office in which he was enabled to distinguish himself for his resolution and consistency; and he was employed as plenipotentiary at the treaty of the Pyrenees. After the accession of Richard Cromwell, and even during the uncertainty of the continuance of a protectoral government in England, Sir William Lockhart so far supported in his own person the influence of the commonwealth, that the interference of the exiled prince was disregarded by both the foreign powers. After the peace, he visited England, and met with Monk, whom he found still apparently intent on the continuation of the protectorate. Being thus lulled into security, he returned to his foreign station, which he hardly reached when he heard rumours of the approaching restoration of monarchy. When Monk first hinted that his exertions would be at the service of the king, and advised him speedily to quit Spain, lest his person might be seized as a hostage for the restoration of Dunkirk, Charles fled to Breda; and Lockhart might at once have obtained pardon for all offences, and the prospect of high promotion under the new order of things, if he would have acceded to a request (made with many flattering promises) to throw open to him the gates of Dunkirk. But the man who had said he would not be insulted even by a king, answered that "he was trusted by the commonwealth, and could not betray it." [Burnet, i. 86.] "This scruple," says Hume, "though in the present emergence it approaches towards superstition, it is difficult for us entirely to condemn;" but the elegant historian made the observation on the presumption that Lockhart "was nowise averse to the king’s service."—"Whether this refusal," says Clarendon, "proceeded from the punctuality of his nature (for he was a man of parts and of honour), or from his jealousy for the garrison, that they would not be disposed by him, (for though he was exceedingly beloved and obeyed by them, yet they were all Englishmen, and he had none of his own nation, which was the Scottish, but in his own family;) certain it is, that, at the same time that he refused to treat with the king, he refused to accept the great offers made to him by the cardinal, who had a high esteem of him, and offered to make him marshal of France, with great appointments of pensions and other emoluments, if he would deliver Dunkirk and Mardyke into the hands of France; all which overtures he rejected: so that his majesty had no place to resort to preferable to Breda."[Clarendon ut sup.] After the termination of the period of excitement and energy in which he bore so active a part, little of interest remains to be told connected with the events of Lockhart’s life. He was of course, deprived of the government of Dunkirk, which was bestowed on Sir Edward Harley. Through the intercession of Middleton, he was suffered to return to Britain, and was introduced to Charles; he then retired to Scotland, where he buried himself in retirement, and amused himself with teaching his fellow countrymen the English methods of agriculture; but, driven away by the prevailing anarchy, he preferred a residence with the relations of his wife in Huntingdonshire. In 1665, when a renewed struggle of the commonwealth’s men was expected in Scotland, the busy spirits, who had dreamed of, rather than concocted the enterprise, looked to the earl of Cassillis and Lockhart as the individuals who would probably become their leaders; but, neither countenancing the advances which were cautiously made, the project fell for a period. In 1671, he was brought to court by Lauderdale, and he showed no disinclination to be employed, "not so much," says Burnet, "out of ambition to rise, as from a desire to be safe, and to be no longer looked on as an enemy to the court." But Charles seems to have considered him as one of his "natural" enemies, "for when a foreign minister," continues Burnet, "asked the king leave to treat with him in his master’s name, the king consented, but with this severe reflection, that he believed he would be true to any body but himself."—"He was sent," continues the same authority, "to the courts of Brandenburg and Lunenburg, either to draw them into the alliance, or, if that could not be done, at least to secure them from all apprehensions. But in this he had no success. And indeed when he saw into what a negotiation he was engaged, he became very uneasy. For though the blackest part of the secret was not trusted to him, as appeared to me by the instructions which I read after his death, yet he saw whither things were going; and that affected him so deeply, that it was believed to have contributed not a little to the languishing he soon fell into, which ended in his death two years after. This event took place on the 20th March, 1675, a year after the death of his father. Noble has told us that his death was attributed to the alternate causes of "a poisoned glove," and disgust at the machinations betwixt Charles and Louis, of which he had been the unconscious instrument. "I have ever looked on him," says Burnet, "as the greatest man that his country produced in this age, next to Sir Robert Murray."


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