Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

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


Caused of the War—Disputed Succession' of Spain—Pretender Proclaimed in France—Grand Alliance—Cameronian Regiment embarks for Holland—Captain Blackader rejoins the Army—Success of the Allies.

It often happens that treaties, destined to he permanent, and to allay for ever the feuds of rival powers, are the very source from which national hostilities spring. All those disputes that embroil states and empires in more implacable animosity, generally have their foundation laid in the intricacies or equivocal terms of those contracts. Contingencies happen for which there are no special provisions. Advantages occur, either unforeseen or anticipated, which offer too powerful a temptation to he resisted. Leagues and bonds are then found to he hut of slender obligation. The most solemn stipulations, when opposed to interest or ambition, are in danger of being disregarded, or considered as obsolete whenever they cease to he agreeable or convenient. Such was the fate which the peace of Ryswick experienced, which had professedly for its object, the amity and lasting repose of Europe. Several reasons contributed to this interruption, but we need only mention the two principal causes, viz. the disputed Succession of the Spanish Crown, and the recognition of the young Prince of Wales as titular King of Great Britain.

Charles II. of Spain, approaching his dissolution, and leaving no heirs of his own body, die settlement of his dominions became the primary object of attention and intrigue, in all the European Cabinets. The death-bed of the expiring monarch was surrounded with priests, nobles, and plenipotentiaries, each anxious to elicit symptoms of preference, or concessions favourable to their respective claimants. The three competitors who founded their pretensions on hereditary right, were, the Dauphin of France, the Emperor Leopold, and the Elector of Bavaria. Each had their several partisans. The Spanish nation favoured the claims of the House of Bourbon; the queen and the grandees declared for the Emperor, while the general security and interests of Europe seemed to require the succession for the Prince of Bavaria. In this singular contest, his Britannic Majesty took a very lively interest. As he affected to hold in his own hands the balance of power, and to be the head of the Protestant cause, he deemed the accession of the Spanish monarchy too ponderous to be thrown, undivided, into either scale, especially into that of France, to which he was naturally an enemy, and whose aspiring ambition it had been the ruling passion of his whole life to humble and control.

A Treaty of Partition, as the best remedy against these apprehensions, was projected and signed by England, Holland, and France, by which the dominions of Charles were to he dismembered, and shared proportionality among the several competitors. But Louis, with his usual duplicity and finesse, while subscribing to this treaty, was secretly negotiating, through his ambassador at the Court of Madrid, for the whole succession, and had the address to get his grand-son, the Duke of Anjou, nominated in the Royal Will as sole heir to the Spanish throne. The Duke was second son of the Dauphin, hut this preference to a younger branch, was only a political maneuver; for while it secured the claims of the House of Bourbon, it tended to prevent any alarm which might he taken, had the two formidable monarchies of France and Spain been united in one person. Europe had thus the singular spectacle of witnessing a powerful nation choosing a king from the house of a rival and an enemy. The Duke was accordingly proclaimed under the title of Philip V. and his accession notified to all the powers in Christendom.

This appointment placed Louis in a delicate situation. It was no doubt most flattering to his vanity, and a mighty acquisition to his empire, hut contrary to his stipulations in the partition treaty, by which lie renounced the entire succession of Spain. At first he affected to hesitate whether he should break his faith, or, by adhering to the treaty, deprive his grandson of a magnificent empire. But the feelings of nature, and the prospects of aggrandizement, speedily triumphed over all the obligations of leagues and alliances ; and to satisfy his all-grasping ambition he was content to plunge his own subjects into new miseries, and deluge Europe with the blood of millions.

The elevation of Philip, and the treacheries of France, excited a deeper and more general indignation than the treaty of partition had done. The emperor exclaimed against this preference as a piece of injustice to himself, and threatened to carry his resentment into execution hy force of arms. Holland began to tremble, when she saw those towns and territories which had been the barrier of her security, put into the hands of her enemies, and planted with hostile garrisons. England, though equally indignant at the conduct of the French king, had less cause of apprehension, and therefore felt disinclined to involve herself in foreign connections, which might encumber her with additional losses and expenses, from which the country had not yet recovered. And it may be doubted whether she would have declared herself a party to the Grand Alliance, but for the information which arrived at this time, of the death of the late King James, and the acknowledgment of his son by the courts of France and Spain, under the title of James III. This was regarded as an insult by the nation, and a manifest violation of justice to the crown, since William had been solemnly acknowledged by the treaty of Ryswick, king of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

The whole country was set in a flame; party animosities, that had lately rent and convulsed the king^-dom, seemed to be forgotten in one common resentment. • The Jacobites held it as a national affront, that a foreign court should dictate a successor to the British throne : The Whigs spurned at the idea of owning the legitimacy, and much more of recognising the hereditary title, of a person reputed to he of spurious birth, and who had already been excluded and incapacitated by an act of the whole legislature. This indignation was heightened still more by an intercepted letter from the Earl of Melfort, governor to the pretended Prince, purporting to support his claims by an invasion. Danger was now added to indignity, and the fears of the people co-operated with their resentment. Addresses to the throne were poured in from all quarters of the kingdom, filled with gratitude for the blessings of the Revolution, and breathing vengeance against this new aggressor of their peace and their liberties.

Nothing could have happened more opportunely for William, who was ready to seize every opportunity of humbling the grandeur of his ancient rival, and had now an abundant pretext from his violations of faith, and his interference with the British succession. His own conduct in the partition treaty had occasioned considerable displeasure, and incurred the reproaches of the parliament; but his popularity began to revive, and the clamours of discontent which had lately echoed through the kingdom, were exchanged for ardent professions of loyalty. William did not fail to take advantage of this accidental enthusiasm, and to improve it for the prosecution of his favourite schemes. The national ardour was fanned by an able and eloquent speech, wherein he set forth the danger that threatened their security, and the necessity of contributing their utmost to check the exorbitant power and the insolent usurpations of France. The event answered his expectations. Parliament entered into all his views, and promised the necessary contributions for the war. Another Grand Alliance was negotiated and concluded at the Hague, between England, the Emperor, and the States General. The object of this confederacy was, to defend themselves against the encroachments of Louis, who was now in a condition to oppress the rest of Europe, and establish a universal monarchy; to put his Imperial majesty in possession of those towns and dominions which had been assigned him by the partition treaty; and to attempt the recovery of the Spanish Netherlands out of the hands of France, as a necessary barrier on the Dutch frontier. The quota of troops to be supplied by each of the contracting powers was as follows : The Emperor to furnish 90,000 men; the States 102,000; and Great Britain 40,000, to consist of 33,000 foot, and 7000 horse and dragoons.

Military preparations commenced with the greatest activity. The towns in Flanders were garrisoned with French troops, and the Dutch forces who refused to surrender were made prisoners of war. The king of England, having completed his alliances abroad, and concerted the necessary operations for the campaign, returned home to put himself at the head of his army. But he did not live to see his schemes carried into execution. He fell from his horse, and fractured his collar bone, and the effects of this slight accident proved fatal to a constitution already enfeebled and decayed. He expired on the 8th of March, 1702.

His successor, Queen Anne, adopted his measures without any great alteration, and resolved to prosecute them with the greatest vigour. The concurrence of the British court was absolutely necessary to unite and consolidate the Grand Alliance, and the resolution of the Queen served to revive those hopes which the death of William seemed to have extinguished. On the 4th of May, war was declared against France, and the Earl of Marlborough appointed to the command of the confederate army. After this short explanatory digression, we shall again resume our extracts from the Diary.

The Cameronian Regiment, which had continued for some time in garrison at Perth, was again destined for foreign service. In the month of February, 1702, they received orders to repair to. Holland, and join the confederate army. Captain Blackader remained in Scotland with a recruiting party until the middle of July, when he rejoined his regiment on the Continent. His observations and reflections on this occasion, we shall record in his own words.

February 1. Going to church in the forenoon, I first got the news of our going abroad. I bless God I have a sweet complacency in his. will on this point; go or stay, the earth is the Lord’s. As to. all temporal things, I resign the disposal into his hands; his will is, that I should depend implicitly and frankly upon himself, and through grace I will depend upon him, and trust him cheerfully. He does all things well and wisely.

February 20. This morning I employed in pouring out my soul before God, to implore his blessing and ask more grace of him, now when I have more need of it; and to beg, that if he send me out of Scotland at this time, he will let his presence accompany me, (and if that go with me, all the world’s alike to me.) I laid out before him the snares and temptations my employment is subject to; the grief it would, be to leave the gospel behind me, and launch out again among the trials, and vices, and perils of camps and armies. But I resign myself into his hands, to carry me wheresoever he will: And I am persuaded, wherever he orders my lot—in whatever service he employs me, I shall not be sent on a warfare at my own charges. His grace will be sufficient for me, and keep me from the pollutions of a wicked world. I bless him for all his mercies, and for the good appearances of reformation in this place (Perth) with which he has favoured my poor endeavours.

March 5. This important crisis of my life is approaching near, and I am again to mingle in the troubles, dangers, and toils of a new war. This morning I took a solitary walk, and went up to the crajg at Craigfortli, and there I renewed my covenant with Christ, and ratified whatever I had done before. I implored him for such measures of grace as I should, from time to time, stand in need of; and that he would supply sufficient strength and furniture, and order all my ways and actions aright.

March 7. This day our regiment embarked, and it has been a sad day for me, for from five in the morning till late at night, I have not had a serious composed thought; all has been noise, bustle, and confusion. This is not the element I delight to breathe in.

March 11. The clouds are gathering thicker and blacker, and a gloomy storm is coming on. Happy they who are compassed about with the shield of Divine favour. My comfort, in general, as to our church and nation is this, God sits at the helm, and rules and disposes all for his own glory and his people’s good. As to my own particular, he who guides the universe, is my God and my Father. Let the world he turned upside down—let the kings of the earth combine, and the nations rage tumultuously,—I am safe, I have a city of refuge to flee to.

March 12. This is a doleful day; we have just got the common table news of the death of the best of kings. Our dear Deliverer is taken from us. Alas ! our cup of iniquity is full it appears, and we seem to he a people prepared and fitted for ruin. But the same God who raised up for us a Moses to bring us out of Egypt and the house of bondage. Gracious Lord! he thou our strong tower of defence. Cast the arms of thy protection around the church and work of reformation in Scotland. Be our hiding-place in the evil day, our fortress in times of trouble. Disappoint the expectations of our enemies, and raise up the faith and the fallen hopes of thy people desponding under this mournful dispensation.

During Captain Blackader’s stay in Scotland, the Diary continues to run on in the same devotional strain; every line breathing sentiments of piety, resignation, and humility. Wherever he was stationed on duty, he regularly attended the public ordinances of religion. He let slip no opportunity of paying his vows before the people, at the stated solemnities of the sacrament; and his deportment at a communion table, is said to have been peculiarly grave, serious, and becoming. His self-denial and abasement were very remarkable: if prosperous in any of his undertakings, he never ascribes his success to his own prudence or dexterity, but to the blessing and guidance of heaven. Though never backward or remiss in his military duties, he frequently admits that a military life is his aversion, and regrets he had not preferred a situation wherein he could have done God more service, and employed his own talents to more advantage. His greatest horror was to mix in the society of his profligate companions in arms, and be compelled to listen to their .impure or profane conversation. He would rather have marched up to the enemies’ batteries, than have >lat at mess or remained in the company of such associates. The cannon’s mouth was not so terrible to him, as the artillery of oaths and obscenities with which his ears were, often assailed. And to this cause is to be ascribed his predilection for solitude and retirement in the intervals of duty, as well as those expressions of peevish and fretful discontent, which threw a dark shade even over his happiest moments, and gave the semblance of moro-sity and dejection, to a temper naturally mild and cheerful.

The vice of swearing was then become shockingly fashionable, and by the troops in Flanders carried to a shameless and execrable height. This must have been offensive to every man of common delicacy, but peculiarly distressing and painful to a mind such as Captain Blackader’s, naturally sensitive, and seasoned ■with the most lively impressions of religion. And it is rather surprising, that among military men, where the sense of honour and courtesy is so acute, and resentment of affronts so keen, that this practice should be tolerated or treated with impunity. The swearer commits a breach, not only of morality and religion, but of modesty and good-breeding. He wounds the feelings of his hearers without cause or provocation. It may be true, that he offers no violence to their persons or their reputation, but he inflicts a pang which bleeds inwardly, and is more excruciating than mere bodily injury. And surely the man who needlessly and insolently tramples upon our conscience and our feelings,—who trespasses against all that we are accustomed to hold most sacred, ought to be reputed as culpable and unworthy of our society as he who is guilty of an incivility, or perhaps undesignedly, or in the heat of passion, casts an imaginary stain 011 our professional character. “This vice, though one of the most common, appears to be one of the most absurd and indefensible. It cannot, like many others, plead motives of interest, of sensuality, or any natural propensity. Destitute of these aids and encouragements, it springs up, as it were, the rank and spontaneous growth of a superabundant corruption.

In his political opinions, Captain Blackader implicitly adhered to neither party. “My temper,” says he, “does not incline me to be zealous for any party or faction. I only wish to be zealous against sin; on that side let me always be found.” For some time, he had been employed about Stirling, Edinburgh and Leith, in levying the necessary complement of men, in which he was very successful, notwithstanding his disdain of the usual alluring and plausible arts of a recruiting officer. He had also to provide a chaplain for the regiment in lieu of Mr. Shields, who had gone on the Darien expedition, and died in the West Indies.

June 12—24. I bless God who guides me by his Spirit and his providence: If I would but trust him and have patience, I would see all my concerns well managed, and all turn to the best. I have reason to be grateful for his mercies in regard to my employment and recruiting, and that instead of bringing myself into snares by unwarrantable practices, my men are brought to my hand, and I have only to lay out the money. Every thing is ordered and disposed of well, though I know it not, and be ignorant which is the right way; I see it was best for me that I went not away with the last convoy. I stayed partly on a spiritual account, and God has followed me with a temporal blessing also, for I have since got more men than I got in three months before. The one that run' away some time ago, came back after wandering up and down several weeks, and says he could have no peace until he returned to me again. How true do I find that Scripture: Be careful about nothing, but in every thing, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, make your desires known to God. When I was anxious and solicitous about getting of men and recruiting my company, I got few or none : But when I came to a composure of mind, and trusted to Providence (still in the use of means), men, as it were, came to my hand. At first I had very little hopes of getting my company made up; but now that He has provided for me, I find I shall not be behind others. O that he would give me grace to serve him in this and every station he puts me in. I have been taking some steps ahout getting a minister. Lord, direct and guide, and if this he the man, send him to us in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ.

July 6. I am glad of the account I have just got from Holland of Mr. P. coming to he our chaplain; may God give him a commission to do us good. I was not expecting it, hut it is a pleasing surprise, for Lord, thou knowest it was one of the greatest griefs I had to leave the gospel 'behind, and go where I could not enjoy it. O let me always enjoy thy precious gospel, though my worldly circumstances should he the meaner. I find help and delight in godly society, were it hut in the company of four or five private Christians; and I would rather have the fervent prayers of the righteous on my side, than the whole Scottish army. The world may think this folly or hypocrisy, hut I am not much anxious what people’s opinion of me is, or what they think; though I desire to possess the good-will and esteem of all good men. But there is a day coming when every body must appear in their own colours, without any disguise ; then it will he known who are sincere, and who are hypocrites.

Having obtained his full complement of men, he set sail from Leith on the 13th of July. “I bless God who directs and disposes of all my business well, and makes every thing fall right without disappointments or cross providences; I look to him for conduct and protection, and commit myself and family to him in this voyage: And it is a great comfort to me, that there are several worthy Christians interested for us, and plying the throne of grace on our behalf; and I am persuaded it will not fare the worse with us for their sakes. .

July 17. This day we had several fears and troubles from contrary winds and storms. In the afternoon a French privateer appeared at a distance, but came not near us. '

July 23. We landed (in the Maese) I bless God who has brought our voyage to a happy issue, who has preserved us from sea-hazards, from enemies, and under sickness and indisposition.

July 25. Our voyage up the river appeared to be tedious, but it fell out otherwise, and we came to our journey’s end safe and well. And now I commit my way to God’s providence, and beg more grace as I need. I entreat his blessing for my employment,— for this place, and the people I live among.

July 26, Sabbath. Iam now obliged to do many things that are not the proper work of a Sabbath; I was on the guard, and in hurry, noise, and company all day. This makes me look back and think, with pleasure and melancholy, on the sweet intercourse and ordinances I enjoyed in Scotland. Here every thing is the reverse with me; the means of grace are fewer; quickening influences more rare; and snares strewn thicker. This makes me tremble to think how I shall get through, for I find temptations in every company, —in every step of my life,—in every minute of my time.

August 23, Sabbath. I complain of the deadness and formality of worship in the French church. I hear preaching, but it excites in my soul no earnest longings and desires. The edge of my affections continues blunted and dull. Here I am not so earnest for spiritual supplies, nor so sensible of the want of them.

August 31. I often find in the morning when I awake, the world standing ready, as it were, at the door of my heart, importuning for admittance, and whenever the door opens, it is sure to thrust itself in under some specious pretext: This makes prayer the more necessary. I wish to have the world under my feet, trampling upon its vanities, and not usurping the throne of my heart or reigning over my affections.

About this time, Captain Blackader appears to have got some considerable accession to his fortune, though he does not mention through what channel. His generosity, on this occasion, was very commendable, and he speaks with extreme disinterestedness regarding the possession of earthly treasures.

September 11. God is giving me, at this time, some means in the world, and more than I expected of it; and I take it as a token for good that he gives his blessing with it, because he has now put an occasion in ray hand of laying out £100, a-year, for the relief of a relation dear to himself, that needs it. (This relation, most probably, was his sister, Mrs. Young, then residing in Edinburgh, a widow with seven children, and in narrow circumstances. A few years afterwards, he made the same affectionate application of another legacy, which fell to him by the death of his eldest brother, generously renouncing his claims and his share of that bequest, in favour of his sister and her family.)

September 30. I have been much taken up about my temporal affairs, and was afraid and jealous of myself, that my affections were too much going out after tlie world. But I pray God to keep earthly cares out of my heart; to let me have no riches or estates, but what he will give me his blessing with ; that I may use them all with a holy carelessness and indifference, without losing a hair-breadth, or abating a grain-weight of my desires after a better treasure in heaven.

It does not appear that the Captain was engaged in any of the sieges or actions of this campaign, at least, he mentions none of them in his Diary. Most probably he was employed on some of the detachments that were ordered to garrison such towns as it was supposed the enemy might attack. It is therefore unnecessary to take any retrospective notice of this year, further than is requisite for preserving a connection in the order of events.

This new war, which was to humble the power of France, and reflect so much lustre on the British arms, commenced auspiciously on the side of the allies; notwithstanding various advantages which fortune had now thrown into the scale of the enemy. The present confederacy was inferior in strength and numbers, to that formerly headed by King William. A great proportion of the forces and treasure which they then commanded, was now in the hands of Louis. He had at his disposal the fleets and armies of Spain, besides her gold and silver mines. The Netherlands, Sicily, Sardinia, Milan, and Naples, were accessions which added vastly to his resources. The Duke of Savoy Was now united to the House of Bourbon by a double affinity, one of his daughters being married to the King of Spain, and another to the Duke of Burgundy. The Electors of Cologne and Bavaria had revolted from the alliance, and admitted French troops into their territories. Louis had, besides, a vast advantage in having all the barrier towns in the Netherlands in his possession, and all the fortresses garrisoned with his own troops, so that, to all appearance, the allies were completely over-matched.

But these acquisitions did not secure to France that superiority or success which might have been anticipated. Though her power seemed then at the zenith, it had, in reality, begun to decline. An internal change had imperceptibly taken place in her court and lier councils, the effects of which soon became visible in her military operations. The age of her renowned generals and ministers was passed away, and her glory bad departed with them. The exchequer and the war-office were no longer conducted by the policy of Colbert and Louvois. Conde, Turenne, and Luxembourg, who had led her armies through a splendid career of victories, were dead; and no successor had risen with talents or genius to supply their place. Military honours and promotions were bestowed on young men of rank, rather than veteran officers; as if nobility of blood could supply the want of knowledge and experience. The troops thus lost all confidence in commanders whose only qualification was the lustre of their birth, and whom they saw elevated at once to preferments which are often the reward of twenty years service. Such was the situation in which the affairs of Louis were placed at the commencement of the war,—a situation which rendered all his advantages unavailing. All his resources in talents and treasure were feeble and inefficient, when opposed to the financial strength of Britain, and the capacity of Marlborough and Prince Eugene, who, in military genius, perhaps surpassed the most celebrated generals ever France produced.

The rapid successes of the allies at the opening of the campaign, shewed to the world that the fortune of war had changed sides; and Louis, instead of overrunning the enemy’s country with his victorious arms, was forced to retire within his own lines, and act upon the defensive. The French army in the Netherlands was commanded by Marshal Boufflers, or rather the young Duke of Burgundy who had come to study the art of war under his directions: that of the Confederates, by the Earl of Marlborough, who arrived in the camp about the end of June.

Previous to that date, the allies had-made considerable progress, and gained several advantages over the enemy. Their first conquest was the small town of Keyserswaert.—It belonged to the Elector of Cologne, who, being in alliance with Louis, had admitted a French garrison into it. The trenches were opened on the 10th of April, by a detachment under the Prince of Nassau, and after an obstinate siege of two months, the town capitulated, and was reduced to a heap of ruins.

Another division of the Confederate army, under General Cohorn, broke into Flanders, forced and demolished the whole line of fortifications between St. Donet and Isabella, which the. enemy had been many months in raising with great labour and expence; and at the same time, laid the castellany of Bruges under contribution. In June, Marshal .Boufflers made an attempt on the city of Nimeguen, hut his design was completely frustrated by the Earl of Athlone, who commanded the third grand division of the Allied army.

On the arrival of Lord Marlborough, it was resolved to bring the enemy to a decisive action. But Marshal Boufflers, whose peculiar talent lay in commanding a flying camp, preferred a retreat to a pitched battle; and the Duke of Burgundy who had come to study military tactics, thinking flight unbecoming his dignity, quitted the campaign in disgust, having learned nothing hut how to avoid an engagement. The allies followed up their successes, and took several places with little or no resistance. The Castle of Wert was taken; the towns of Venlo, Ruremonde, and Stevenswert surrendered; Marshal Boufflers all the while remaining in his camp, without offering to annoy the allies, or making any motion to relieve the besieged.

With these conquests, the Deputies of the States were willing to have closed the campaign, hut Lord Marlborough resolved to attempt the reduction of Liege which the Elector of Bavaria had delivered into the hands of the French; foreseeing of what advantage it would be for winter quarters to a part of his army, and the glory that would redound to the Confederates from this important acquisition. This rich and populous city lies in a pleasant valley environed with hills* the Meuse entering it in two branches, which with several smaller streams, form many delightful islands. The castle, which stood on the brow of a hill, was of great strength, and commanded the whole city. The Allied army sat down before the place on the 12th of October; on the 14th three English Regiments of horse, and as many battalions of foot under Lord Cutts, took possession of the town. On the 18th the batteries were opened against the citadel, and on the 29th the garrison capitulated. The French were thus obliged to abandon Spanish Guelderland, and resign to the Allies the command of the country between the Meuse and the Scheldt, while the reduction of Keyserswaert and Landau opened a communication between the armies on the Meuse and the Rhine. Such was the termination of this prosperous campaign. The Earl of Marlborough, by his good conduct, had established himself in the affection of the army. He was complimented by the States, and created a Duke by Queen Anne, in reward for his eminent services. The army broke up, and retired to quarters in November.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus