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The Life and Diary of Lieut. Col. J. Blackader
Chapter I.


Family of Blackader—Notices of the Colonel’s early life—He studies at Edinburgh—Enters the Army—Anecdotes of Dr. William Blackader.

Lieutenant Colonel John Blackader was a native of Dumfries-shire. He was born in the parish of Glencairn, on the 14th of September, 1664. His father, the Rev. John Blackader, was minister of Troqueer in the presbytery of Dumfries; and expelled at the restoration of Charles IL for refusing to comply with Episcopacy, which the government had imprudently introduced in opposition to the wishes of the church and the nation. Of his early life, very little is known beyond a few incidental notices, until he entered the army in his 25th year. It is then, chiefly, that our acquaintance with him must commence : But as there is, in general, a curiosity to know more of the history of a distinguished individual than his personal adventures, some preliminary notices of his family will not, I am persuaded, be unacceptable to the reader. Genealogical detail is not our purpose, and has been given elsewhere ; yet on this subject, a few observations may be premised, without overstepping the restrictions of Biography.

Colonel Blackader’s parentage was highly respectable. He had the honour to be connected, by propinquity of blood and hereditary descent, with the ancient baronage of Scotland. The original family was Blackader of that Ilk in Berwickshire, who had acquired considerable renown for their military achievements in the Border feuds, so early as the minority of James II. towards the middle of the fifteenth century. The lands from which they derived their name were the gift of that prince, conferred as a reward for their patriotic and enterprising activity in defending the eastern frontier, against the frequent and often sanguinary depredations of the English. An extensive addition was afterwards made to their property, by a marriage with the heiress of Tulliallan, an estate in Perthshire. This became afterwards the seat of the family, when the avaricious pretensions of arrival clan, the Homes of Wedderburn, had violently dispossessed them of their patrimonial estate in the Merse. The castle, now in ruins, stands on the northern bank of the Forth, near Kincardine. It belonged to the late Lord Keith, and; was for several generations, the residence of the Blackaders, Barons of Tulliallan.

The House of Blackader formed at various times matrimonial connexions of the first respectability. They were allied, by intermarriage, to the noble family of Douglas of Angus, Graham Earls of Monteith, and Bruce of Clackmannan, whose line still survives in the Earl of Elgin and Kincardine.

Living in the days of war and chivalry, they seem to have imbibed, in no inconsiderable proportion, the-martial spirit of those heroic ages. Stimulated by the maxims of a perverse errantry, which made it fashionable to court danger for the love of fame,—to seek military glory in every perilous enterprise, their romantic courage led them to wander in search of honourable adventures under the standard of foreign princes. A small body of them volunteered for the cause of Henry VII. in the wars of York and Lancaster. They were present at the battle of Bosworth, the field that terminated the life and reign of the ambitious Richard, and restored the Red Rose to its ancient ascendancy. The heir of Blackader followed the banner of the Douglases at Flodden, and perished, with many of his kinsmen, in that disastrous contest. They espoused the part of the unfortunate Mary, and sided with the Cavaliers in the parliamentary wars of Charles I. There was a cadet of this family in the Spanish service, under Ludovic, Earl of Crawford; and another served with Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, in his campaigns for relief of the distressed Protestants in Germany. One of their last lineal representatives, raised a body of troops, and joined the Earl of Glencairn, who, with some of the • Highland Chiefs in 1653, assembled a considerable force in the North to repel the usurpations of Cromwell—the last effort that was made to retrieve the departing liberties, and preserve the ancient independence of Scotland.

The Blackaders made some figure in the ecclesiastical,' as well as in the military annals of their country. Prior to the Reformation, they possessed official jurisdiction and monkish’ dignities in various churches and monasteries. In those days, the rich patrimony of the church offered a prize worthy of competition. Spiritual titles and monastic revenues were contested with the same eagerness as earthly crowns, and. often with the same arms. The lucrative endowments of religious foundations were either monopolized by the nobles, or seized by those who could hack their pious claims with force, and by casting the sword into the scale, make the balance of justice turn in their favour. The Priory of Coldingham was, filled repeatedly by members of the Blackader family, one of whom was murdered, with six of his domestics, to make way for William Douglas, brother to the Earl of Angus. Another of them was Dean of Dunblane, and suffered the same fate; another,' Archdeacon of Glasgow, who fell in a skirmish at Edinburgh with the rival faction of the Homes; and another, Abbot of Dundrennan in Galloway. Of this House also, was Robert,. Bishop of Aberdeen, who was afterwards translated, to Glasgow, and became the first Metropolitan of that See. It was during his incumbency, and chiefly through his interest with Pope Sextus IV. and his successor, Innocent VIII. that this new Archbishopric was erected,—a measure, resented with jealous indignation by his Grace of St. Andrews, and like to have occasioned a dangerous schism in this remote province of the Catholic dominions.

The Last Baron of Tulliallan, Sir John, was, in 1626, created by Charles I. one of the Knights Baronets of Nova Scotia,—a dignity which none of his posterity over enjoyed. Being of a wasteful and extravagant turn, he impoverished his estate, and. retired to the eontinent. He bore a commission for some time in the French Guards, and died in America about the year 1651. To the title of this Knight Baronet, Colonel Blackader’s father lived to be the lineal heir, having survived all nearer claimants. But as the prodigality of its first possessor had reduced it to an empty honour, it was never assumed either by himself, or any of his descendants.

Colonel Blackader was from a younger branch of the Tulliallan family, who possessed the lands and barony of Blairhall, near Culross. One of his immediate progenitors, his great grand-father, married a daughter of the celebrated Robert Pont, minister of St Cuthberts, near Edinburgh, an eminent Reformer, son-in-law to John Knox, and one of the last of the clerical order that sat as a Lord of Session.

But of all this remote and once opulent ancestry, nothing remained to Colonel Blackader except the name. He inherited no other advantage from it than the frivolous boast of an ancient and honourable pedigree. Long before his birth, the fortunes of his family had become extinct, partly through domestic embarrassments, and partly from the desolating effects that always follow the storms and convulsions of political or religious hostilities, in a kingdom divided against itself. These deficiencies, however, he repaired by the celebrity of his own character. His reputation as a brave officer, is a monument that will survive when the glory of hereditary distinctions has perished. His piety, as a devout Christian, has earned him a more illustrious title than any he could have derived from antiquity of blood, or elevation of birth.

His father, as has been already noticed, was a minister of the church of Scotland. The history of this worthy and excellent man, besides his personal sufferings, exhibits, at considerable length, a detail of the various cruelties and oppressions to which this country was subjected for twenty-eight years, under the Episcopal persecution. He bore a proportional share of the toils and harrassings of that unhappy period, being one of the most indefatigable and intrepid preachers of his time. Though expelled from his charge at Troqueer, he did not renounce the ministerial privileges of his office when deprived of its temporalities. Denied access to the established pulpits, he erected the standard of religious liberty in the fields, and was one of the first three who ventured their lives for the free preaching of the gospel.

His itinerary labours were continued for nearly twenty years, with a zeal and perseverance truly apostolical, and a success altogether astonishing. His exertions were not circumscribed to Dumfries-shire or Galloway, but extended to almost every county south of the Tay. There was scarcely a hill, a moor, or a glen in the southern and western districts of Scotland, where he did not hold a conventicle, or celebrate a communion. In these excursions he was frequently the companion and co-adjutor of Welsh, Peden, Cargill, and other undaunted Covenanters, who maintained the rights and the freedom of their national worship, in the face of peril and sword. In 1674, lie was proclaimed rebel and fugitive, and a premium of a thousand merks offered to any that should kill or apprehend him. But the goodness of providence, with every danger, made a way for his escape, preserving him from the violence of barbarous edicts, and bloody executioners. After the defeat at Bothwell-Bridge, he went over to Holland, where he made a short stay, and proved eminently serviceable in allaying those irritations and ill-natured debates that had sprung up among the refugees, from want of proper information on the true state of Scottish affairs. On his return, he was apprehended at Edinburgh, in his own house, and sent a prisoner to the Bass Rock, then employed as a convenient receptacle for the persecuted victims of Prelacy. In this bleak and solitary isle, he lingered several years in rigorous captivity. The harshness of his treatment, and the ungenial air of the place, terminated his days. He died in 1685, and was buried in the church-yard of Nortli-Berwick, the adjacent parish.

It was about two years after his father’s ejection, that Colonel Blackader was born. He was the youngest of five sons, all of whom he survived.

The act that extruded the presbyterian ministers, strictly forbade residence or intercourse with their vacant parishes. The penalties of the law, in case of nonconformity, were a total suspension of their salaries, banishment without the bounds of their respective presbyteries, and a prohibition to settle within ten miles of their former churches. In compliance with these injunctions, Mr Blackader had retired to Glencairn, which was beyond the boundaries of the act. There he was accommodated with the house of Barndennoch, a seat of the Dowager Lady Craigdarroch, in the immediate neighbourhood of Minnyhive. In this retreat, he had continued until the winter of 1666, when he was obliged, for greater security, to withdraw to Edinburgh, as reports of his boldness in field-preaching had reached the ears of the council, and attracted the notice of the military who were posted in the districts of Galloway and Nithsdale, to guard the new Episcopal incumbents, and compel the refractory parishioners to attend their sermons.

A party of Sir James Turner’s men attacked his house, but fortunately he had made his escape. Disappointed of their prey, they threatened to wreak their vengeance on the objects that remained. They burnt the furniture, destroyed or carried away books and provisions, and having pillaged the house, they left the helpless family to shift for themselves. The eldest son went to Edinburgh. The Colonel, then a child, and the rest of his brothers, were secreted by such people in the neighbourhood as dared, on their account, to hazard the penalties of Reset and Converse. From the state of the country at that time, when it was peremptorily forbidden to hold intercourse with disaffected persons, or make charitable contributions for their support, it required both courage and humanity to afford them shelter or concealment. All who were found guilty of these benevolent transgressions were punishable by fine, imprisonment, or death. But the rigour of the law could not shut up the channels of compassion, or extirpate the common sympathies of nature. Notwithstanding these legal prohibitions, charity was often brave enough to extend her relief, and sufficiently ingenious to elude detection. Many were ready to peril their own comfort and their own lives, in pity to those little victims of oppression. Hundreds of destitute and wandering fugitives found a sanctuary in the compassionate hospitality of tlieif countrymen.

So soon as circumstances would permit, Mr Blackader collected his scattered family. They resided chiefly in Edinburgh, until his death, sharing with him his privacy and restraints, according as the storm of persecution raged or abated. In the midst of confusion and distraction, he seems to have paid every attention to their literary and religious attainments; employing the intervals of his professional engagements in storing their minds with useful instruction; He himself taught them the rudiments of classical learning, and furnished them with an education, apparently beyond his means and opportunities. They had all attended the ordinary courses of Humanity and Philosophy in the College of Edinburgh, notwithstanding the political impediments with which academical studies were then fettered.

Shortly after the Restoration, the Universities were subjected to the same restrictions as the church. It became a matter of the greatest importance to secure the seats of learning, and have the instructors of youth seasoned with proper principles. No professor, regent, or master was allowed to continue, or he admitted into office, unless he took the oath of allegiance to the king, and acknowledged the government of the church by bishops. And none, except persons thus qualified, were allowed, under pain of rebellion, to congregate any number of scholars, or teach such languages and sciences as were taught at the Unhersi-ties. The College of Edinburgh was more tardy in her compliance, than her sister seminaries. Disaffection was there more firmly rooted, and continued longer; and some of her members even chose deposition, in preference to conformity. Matters, however, were not urged with the same violence and precipitancy in the schools, as they had been in the church.

Impositions so adverse to the prevailing sentiments of the nation, greatly impaired the interests of learning, and the prosperity of the Universities. Such as had adequate finances, repaired to the continent, and studied under foreign masters. At Edinburgh, about .the time of Colonel Blackader’s attendance, the number of students had fallen off exceedingly. So few were the candidates for the annual degrees, that it was sometimes thought needless to go through the ceremony of public laureation. One reason of this extraordinary deficiency was, the conditions imposed upon all applicants for literary' honours. No candidate was permitted to graduate without taking the oaths to the government, civil and ecclesiastical. This constrained many, after finishing their regular course of studies, to take their degrees in some foreign University, where letters were not shackled by any political disabilities. For this purpose, Mr Blackader sent two of his sonff abroad, the eldest to graduate as a physician at Leyden, the most celebrated school of Medicine in the world, and the other to study Theology at Utrecht, where it would appear he had also designed to send his youngest son, the Colonel, had he been in a capacity to defray his expenses. Whether his father had destined him for the church, may be uncertain, but be speaks of him as a youth of promise and abilities, and laments the degraded and neglected state of education in his own country.

From Colonel Blackader’s future life and reflections, it is manifest he had imbibed early impressions of religion. At twelve years of age, he is said to have been admitted a communicant to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. He appears to have frequently attended conventicles and communions, which were celebrated in the open fields, and which had begun about 1677, to attract immense crowds of hearers from all parts of the country. He speaks, in his Diary, with rapture of those quickening and refreshing ordinances, and complains, that he felt not on Sabbaths, in the army abroad, the same ardent desires and tender meltings of soul that he used to have in Scotland. Amidst the confusion of battles, and the licentiousness of camps, he reverts, with a mixture of delight and regret, to the days of old, when he went with the multitude that kept solemn fast, and took sweet counsel together. His piety, though early, proved uniform and abiding.

Much, doubtless, in the formation of his character, hmst be ascribed to the influence of his father’s instructions and example; yet devotion seems, as it were, to have been inherent in his constitution, and all his inclinations, from his tenderest years, happily predisposed to virtue. His infant steps were trained with care to the paths of righteousness. In his heavenly career, he marched onward steadily and progressively, without straying or degenerating from his course,—his life advancing to perfection like the morning light, and shining to the last with increasing brightness. It Was his glory and felicity to maintain his integrity in a station, so replete with dangers and temptations, where the mind is so apt to contract a contrary bias, and where a negative innocence, or an exemption from the more flagrant vices, may be regarded as virtues of rare and difficult attainment.

We have not, in his instance, an example which we sometimes find in the histories of good men, of the subduing power of regenerating grace over a reprobate and unrenewed heart,—of the mysterious efficacy with which it operates in awakening and transforming sinners, to all appearance irrecoverably lost, who, after having given in to every lawless excess, have been suddenly recovered, as by miracle, from the most daring profanity, or the grossest licentiousness. It is remarkable by what variety of means the plans of mercy are accomplished, and what trivial, and as it were, fortuitous incidents are often made the occasion of producing the most surprising and memorable changes. The hearing of a sermon, the accidental perusal of a book, an afflicting dispensation, or some unforeseen deliverance, has frequently been to many the instrument of removing the scales of error and darkness from their eyes, and altering the whole course and system of their lives. We read of some, who, having outlived the religious impressions of their youth, and the?, companions of their folly, and after years spent in utter alienation from God, have been reclaimed from their long wanderings, back to the paths of virtue and piety. Conviction is made to rekindle those sparks of divine grace which seemed Utterly quenched in the sink of depravity,—to touch, as it were, with a live coal from the celestial altar, that truth which had lain so long buried and captive in their hearts. We have seen the most devoted slaves of vice, arrested in their wiki career of profligacy, while pm-suing, with headlong eagerness, the phantoms of unworthy delights—overtaken with mercy at the solitary unexpected hour, when concerting with their own corrupt hearts some new scheme of guilty pleasures. Even the sceptic and the infidel have been subdued in spite of all their reasonings and their railleries ; remorse has touched their consciences, or a ray of heavenly light has penetrated their minds, and unveiled their danger in all its horrors to their terrified imaginations. Frequently has religion thus seen her bitterest enemies become her most zealous votaries, and transformed into her brightest ornaments. These truths require not the corroboration of particular instances, they are illustrated in the lives of departed saints, as well as in many living examples who still remain monuments to the victorious power of divine grace. Let none, however, take encouragement from such recoveries to continue in sin, that for this cause they may obtain mercy, or that a miracle of special grace may he wrought in their behalf. To reckon fearlessly on this interposition, is to tempt the Holy Spirit, and rely on the grossest presumption. Such instances are recorded or permitted for our instruction, and not for our imitation: and though it he true that there may he joy in heaven over a repentant sinner, more than over ninety-nine righteous persons that went not astray; yet ought we to carry this caution along with us, that where one escapes the consequences of his presumption, nine hundred perish in their iniquities.

With such a religious cast of mind, it may appear singular that Colonel Blackader should have embraced a military life. It seems to he the profession, to which, by habit and education, he was least adapted, and in which he was likely to encounter more occasions of annoyance and vexation than in any other. The army, however, may probably have been an object of necessity, more than of choice with him. Other situations might be more eligible, but considering the political and pecuniary circumstances of his family, we may suppose they were placed beyond his reach. The government that had proclaimed his father a rebel, was not likely to open to him the gates of favour and preferment. But at the time he entered the service, there were inducements of a peculiar kind. The memorable Revolution was achieved, but not yet confirmed. The country, emerging from slavery, and still smarting under the rod. of oppression, made an appeal to the patriotism of every citizen, to take arms in the common cause,—an appeal which must have been doubly enforced by the remembrance of past in-j uries, and the hope of a glorious deliverance. These considerations laid an imperative command on every man of public spirit and right feeling, to stand forth, if not to avenge their common wrongs, at least to secure their recent victory. In this light, they must have appeared to Colonel Blackader, who had himself been a sufferer, and seems to have possessed an abundant share of natural bravery. A sense of duty alone, at such a juncture, might overcome that scrupulous reluctance to war and bloodshed, which is a characteristic of every true Christian.

Whatever dislike or aversion may be felt, and every humane spirit must feel a dislike to engage in civil or foreign hostilities, yet there are times of necessity when the public welfare rises paramount to every other consideration, when backwardness or negligence would be criminal. Although it is forbidden to propagate or maintain religion by force, the use of the sword is nowhere prohibited in defence of the established authorities. When the peace and safety of the state are in danger, the magistrate is not only empowered, but obliged to employ arms for the suppression of anarchy and insubordination. The military profession, so far from being condemned as unlawful, is expressly countenanced and sanctioned in Scripture. The manifest tendency of religion undoubtedly is, to disincline and restrain men from quarrelings and fightings; to abolish war, not by proscribing the use of carnal weapons, but by rooting out of the heart those passions of envy, hatred, and ambition that make them unlawful; by rendering men just, merciful, and peaceable; by inspiring them with that benevolence and philanthropy which is the distinguishing badge of Christian fellowship. But unfortunately, men do not yield themselves up to its dominion, nor allow its benign influence to predominate and take the lead in their affections. And so long as human nature is constituted in its present form, to expect the universal reign of peace and good-will, were to indulge a chimerical hope, a millennial dream, that will never be realized. Thus, while Christianity condemns decidedly unjust aggressions and unnecessary bloodshed; while it recommends strongly to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, it inculcates, at the same time, energy and activity when the country requires the aid of defensive arms. Such being the case, every patriotic citizen will feel it his duty to make his private inclinations give way to the general interest. These were evidently the views and feelings which Colonel Blackader entertained upon the subject, and which alone could have reconciled him to an occupation to which lie was naturally disinclined.

Previously to his entering the army, two of his brothers, especially the eldest, had made themselves rather conspicuous by the active share they had taken in public affair^, and it is probable, had not the power of the Council been disarmed by the Revolution, the whole family might have felt the effects of their vengence. 2 Dr Blackader was much in the confidence of the leading characters, both in Scotland and Holland, and had frequently been employed by them in negotiating political transactions. He had several times passed between the two countries on expeditions of intelligence; and twice narrowly escaped torture. The first time was in 1685, when he came over with the Earl of Argyle, who had made a descent on the western coast of Scotland. He and Spence, the Earl’s secretary, had put ashore at Orkney, to procure information, hut were apprehended and despatched to Edinburgh to he examined. On their landing at Leith, they were conducted by the guard for examination before the Privy Council. The sister of Dr. Blackader joined the crowd that followed them, anxious to be of service to him, for none of his brothers durst appear. But she was not allowed to approach near enough for conversation. The soldiers repulsed her with their muskets. Her person, however, had caught his eye, for she observed him looking at her with expressive steadfastness; and pointing at his hat, as if to draw her attention particularly to it. Struck with the idea that this was the mysterious symbol of some important secret in reference to his examination, she immediately returned to Edinburgh, and finding among his luggage, which had been forwarded to a private lodging, a hat belonging to him, she discovered papers concealed under the lining, of such a nature, that had they been detected, the consequence might have proved fatal to himself, as well as to several others. These she immediately destroyed, and by this well-timed resolution, averted the danger that threatened his life; for immediately a party of soldiers entered the house in search of papers, but without success, as nothing suspicious was to be found. He and Spence, however, were closely imprisoned in separate rooms, in order to try if evidence could be expiscated by torture. They were interdicted all communication with their friends, and denied the use of pen, ink, or paper.

Here again Dr. Blackader was rescued by an intrigue of his brother, who had but recently returned from Stockholm in Sweden. He had provided himself with a large tin or white-iron box, with a secret opening underneath, and a double bottom, between which writing materials might be concealed. This he took with him, and ascending a common stair immediately opposite the prisoner’s chamber, he remained there until he observed him through the grating of his window. He shewed him the secret opening, and the materials with which it was furnished. Next day he sent a servant with the open box, full of salad, in the one hand, and a shoulder of roasted mutton in the other, which were admitted by the keeper without suspicion. The Doctor immediately wrote a letter to Holland to the Pensionary Fagel, who represented his case to the British Envoy, and by his means, an express was sent to the Council granting the prisoner a remission, and ordering his liberation, Dr. Blackader was apprehended a second time in the year 1688. He and Colonel Cleland were sent over by the banished lords and gentlemen in Holland, the former to Edinburgh, the other to the west country, to pave the way for the Prince of Orange’s landing, by encouraging their friends, and sounding the dispositions of the people. The Doctor had a commission to transmit to the Prince a weekly account of all that passed, and let him know how the nation stood affected to his cause. .He was also charged with the secret correspondence between Murray of Tibbermore, and Lord Murray, son to the Marquis of Athole.# Having imprudently ventured into the castle, he was seized by order of the Governor, the Duke of Gordon. Some letters and mystical characters being found upon him, he was committed for trial, and threatened with the boot and thumbkins. His examination, however, was delayed, until the rumour spread that the Prince of Orange was landed, and had got possession of London. The fears of the Council then superseded their desires of revenge, and the prisoner, was immediately set at liberty.

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