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Domestic Annals of Scotland
Reign of Charles I. 1637 - 1649 Part A

IT was a terrible and most exciting crisis for Scotland, when the people found themselves constrained by all they held sacred to resist their sovereign. Revering the institution of monarchy, and long accustomed to yield to the powerful king of Great Britain a deference which had neither been asked by nor paid to the sovereign of their own rude and inferior state, nothing could have brought them into such an attitude but their anxiety for the avoidance of soul-endangering errors. Even after the riots of July—such was the unwillingness to adopt strong measures—they might have been induced to remain at peace under bishops and Perth articles, if the king had been so far well counselled as at once and gracefully to withdraw the Service-book. So might a moderate Episcopacy have been preserved in Scotland, and the Civil War itself avoided or postponed. The king unfortunately determined to persevere in his unlucky course. The consequence was that the great mass of the people, including many of the nobility and gentry, was led into measures, at first of protestation, and latterly of resistance. There was indeed a district in the north-east where Episcopacy was the favourite system. In some other places, papist nobles exercised a limited local influence. The Highlanders were an uninstructed people, with no religious predilections. But in the Lowland provinces generally, a people far from void of intelligence were intensely earnest in favour of their old simple forms of worship and model of church-government. In the agitation of the subject during a few months, their prepossessions acquired a strength and fervour which never had been known before. It were quite impossible for any individual of our cool and temperate age, to form an adequate idea of the earnest feelings of the men who now arrayed themselves against Charles’s Episcopal innovations, without a careful perusal of the numberless documents in which these feelings found expression.

In the latter part of 1637, the Service-book not being withdrawn, four committees, called Tables, respectively representing the nobles, gentry, clergy, and burgesses, met in Edinburgh to concert measures for giving it an effective resistance. When it became evident, in the ensuing February, that the king was obdurate, the Tables framed a NATIONAL COVENANT, binding all who should sign it to spare nothing which might save their religion. It was signed by a large majority of the people, in a paroxysm of enthusiasm beyond all example in our history. The king, at length alarmed, sent the Marquis of Hamilton (June 1638) as a commissioner to treat with the Covenanters; and he soon after was induced to offer concessions far beyond what would have been grasped at a twelvemonth before—namely, to withdraw the Service-book and an equally unpopular Book of Canons, to abrogate the Court of High Commission, and place the Perth articles on a footing of indifferency. But while the people at large were at first disposed to be at peace on these terms, the leaders were by this time influenced with higher views. Feeling their power, they now hoped by perseverance to obtain a complete abolition of Episcopacy. Accordingly, when the matter came to be debated in a General Assembly of the Church, which sat at Glasgow in November, the royal commissioner proved unable to keep them within moderate bounds. On his formally dissolving the Assembly, they sat still under a clerical president, until they had deposed the bishops and declared Episcopacy wholly at an end.

The king, notwithstanding that a respect for his person and rule was still professed, could not acquiesce in a movement so contrary to the policy he had so long maintained, and which interfered so violently with his own religious convictions. He began to prepare an army for the subjugation of the Covenanters. They on their part made ready for an armed resistance, not professedly to their sovereign, but to the statesmen who guided his counsels. By a great effort, he got together twenty thousand men, and (May 1639) led them towards the Border. A fleet, having a few thousand troops on board, at the same time entered the Firth of Forth, under the command of the Marquis of Hamilton. Under their nobles, gentry, and clergy, the Scots mustered forces to defend their shores from the fleet, to meet the anti-Covenanting party in the north, and to oppose the king at the Border. To the number of about twenty thousand men, commanded by Sir Alexander Leslie, an experienced officer from the German wars, they took post on Dunse Law, while the king advanced with his army towards the Tweed. What with constant praying, preaching, and fasting, it was such a camp as perhaps never existed before or since. The king, seeing their resolution and discipline, and feeling that he had but slack support from his own army, was induced to offer a pacification. He could not sanction the acts of a General Assembly which had defied his authority; but he proposed that everything should be submitted to another such body sitting under his representative, and to a subsequent parliament. His hope was that time and his personal influence with the leaders might bring things to some passable issue. At the worst, he should meanwhile prepare a greater army for enforcing subjection.

The new General Assembly and the parliament met in the course of summer (1639) under royal commissioners, but with only the effect of formally affirming the abolition of Episcopacy. The king accordingly resolved on a second expedition against the Scots. After trying in vain to induce an English parliament to grant supplies, he obtained some assistance from a convocation of the English clergy, and from a number of friends among the gentry. He calculated much on the public fortresses of Scotland being now in his hands, and on the zeal of a small loyal party. All his hopes were frustrated. In the early part of 1640, the Scots mustered a second army as good as his own. They succeeded in seizing the most of the fortresses. His expectations of co-operation from the loyalists in Aberdeenshire proved fallacious. The attention of a patriotic party in England was now hopefully fixed on the proceedings of the Scots. The truth is, Charles was leading the army of a party of his English subjects through a country generally disaffected to his policy, against a country altogether hostile. In such circumstances, a great blow to his authority was inevitable.

The Covenanters did not now deem it necessary to confine themselves to a defence of their own borders. They crossed the Tweed with a gallant army (August 28, 1640), and advanced on the Tyne. After a smart action, in which they were victorious, they crossed that river, and took possession of Newcastle. With a disaffected army, and all but a few zealots muttering around him, the king could only come a second time to a convention, but now it was upon less favourable terms than before. It was arranged that a new parliament should be called in England for the settlement of the affairs of the kingdom, and that meanwhile the Scottish army should remain in the north under English pay; thus the patriotic party calculated on having a guard to protect them while reforming the state. Efforts were made to raise resentment against the Scots as invaders of the English territory; but the Scots took care, by their published declarations, to shew that they solely aimed at the preservation of the religious forms which had long before been established among them, and that they desired nothing more than the friendship of the English people. Among the English themselves, objections to Episcopal authority and a formal style of worship had been advancing since early in the reign of Elizabeth; giving rise to what was called the Puritanic party. English Puritans, aiming at the same objects as the Scottish Covenanters, readily gave them their sympathy. Thus it was with the cordial concurrence of a large portion of the English nation that the Covenanters rested under arms in England.

The parliament which now sat down, and which was not to rise again for eleven years, proceeded to take into consideration a number of grievances under which the country was considered as having suffered during the king’s reign. His prime advisers, Land, archbishop of Canterbury, and the Earl of Strafford, were imprisoned. Other ministers of the king—opprobriously styled Malignants—were obliged to fly from the kingdom. It became evident that the church itself was in danger. Strafford, after a trial in which it has never been pretended that he got fair-play, was (May 1641) condemned and beheaded. While thus sorely pressed by his English parliament, Charles began to think that his Scottish subjects might be conciliated so as to become his friends, and perhaps to some degree his partisans. In August 1641, he revisited Edinburgh, in order to preside at a meeting of the Estates; and there he sanctioned all the measures they had themselves taken, and distributed honours and rewards among the Covenanting leaders. He spent three mouths in Edinburgh, doing all in his power to cultivate the affections of the Covenanters, and apparently with success, though there were not wanting some troubles, occasioned by a small loyalist party, who wished to act more energetically in his behalf than was convenient for him. He at length returned, as he said, a contented prince from a contented people. Before this time, the Scottish army had been satisfied of their pay by the English parliament, and had returned from Newcastle, and been disbanded.

While the king still remained in Scotland (November 1641), intelligence arrived of a frightful outbreak of the Catholics in Ireland, and the dreadful vengeance executed by them upon their Protestant fellow-subjects. Ten thousand Scottish troops were quickly mustered, and sent over to assist in preserving the king’s authority in that country.

The arbitrary rule which King Charles had exercised down to 1637, had in four years been brought low in both Scotland and England. A severe lesson had been read to him, if he had had the wisdom to profit by it. After such a struggle, it is not easy, either for the monarch to rest corrected, or for his subjects to make moderate uses of their victory. Bigoted views on his part as to both state and church, fostered by the support of a loyal party more generous than wise; a strong sense in the patriotic or parliamentary party that the king and his friends would resume the system of arbitrary authority if possible, and use it mercilessly against all who had taken part in the late movements; made it in a manner impossible that things should rest at the point now attained. Accordingly, soon after the return of the king to London, the popular party in the English parliament presented to him their famous Remonstrance, recapitulating all the errors of his past government, and recommending that he should put himself into the hands of ministers who enjoyed the confidence of the people. His imperious spirit, strengthened by his hopes of support in Scotland, refused to yield to such counsels. When he made his unfortunate attempt (January 1642) to seize the five leading patriots in the House of Commons, the distrust of the parliament was completed, and reconciliation became impossible. The king had for some time contemplated warlike means of recovering his lost ground; but it was not till the bishops had been impeached, and he had been asked to surrender the command of the militia to the parliament, that hh raised his standard at Nottingham (August 1642), with the support of a large body of loyal gentry.

In this civil war, the Scottish nation had no formal reason or pretext for joining on one side or the other; but their sympathies and interests were all engaged in behalf of the parliamentary cause. When the first two campaigns, therefore, made it seem likely that the king would be triumphant, they naturally felt some uneasiness, as fearful that if he should put down the parliament, their recovered liberties and reinstated church would be in danger. The temptation to assist the English patriots thus became irresistible. A. set of commissioners from the English parliament came into Scotland to court its alliance; they were instructed to give the Scottish nation hopes that, in the event of success against the king, the Presbyterian model should supersede the Episcopalian both in England and Ireland. With the enthusiastic conceptions the Scots then had of the value of Presbyterianism, as the only pure and saving vehicle of the gospel, they were unable to resist this bait, though it was after all put into an ambiguous shape. Their Estates, accordingly, entered into what was called a SOLEMN LEAGUE AND COVENANT with the English parliament (August 1643), one of the provisions of which engaged them to send an army against the king. Eighteen thousand foot and three thousand horse, to be supported by English pay at the rate of £30,000 a month, crossed the Tweed in the depth of winter (January 1644). With a view to gratify and encourage them, their enemy, Laud, was taken from his prison in the Tower, tried, and sent to the block—a piece of political revenge merely, as the old man was unable to have done any one further harm. Joining the parliamentary troops at York, the Scots assisted materially in gaining the important victory of Marston Moor, from which the king’s party never entirely recovered. They also besieged and took Newcastle, preserving a laudable moderation in their triumph. The season ended with a marked depression of the royal cause.

While affairs in Scotland were wholly managed by a Committee of the Estates and the Commission of the kirk, several of the nobles and the inhabitants of certain districts, chiefly in the Highlands, formed a tacitly royalist party. The young Earl of Montrose, raised to the rank of marquis, and invested by the king with a commission, set up the royal standard in Perthshire (August 1644), and was soon surrounded by three thousand men, part of whom were Irish papists. Montrose was a man of extraordinary genius, with conceptions far beyond his narrow sphere. Originally a zealous Covenanter, he had changed when he thought the king too hard pressed by his subjects. A generous loyalty and romantic heroism enabled him to perform wonderful exploits; but it is at the same time to be owned that he was fearfully unscrupulous about plunder and the shedding of blood. With his ill-armed followers, he overthrew a carefully embodied army of militia, of twice his number, at Tippermuir (September 1644). Then marching to Aberdeen, he defeated a second army under Lord Burleigh, and entering the city, subjected it to a pillage even severer than any he had inflicted on it as a Covenanter. The Marquis of Argyle pursued him round the Highlands without gaining any advantage. Suddenly breaking off his course, he invaded Argyleshire in the depth of winter, and ravaged it without mercy, killing a great number of the men fit to bear arms. The Marquis of Argyle came to revenge this frightful proceeding at Inverlochy, but was there defeated with immense slaughter (February 1645). Montrose then made a deliberate march through Inverness-shire, Moray, Banffshire, and the east coast, using fire and sword wherever the king’s cause was not at once acknowledged and supported. It was a warfare such as had not taken place in England since the contentions of the Roses, and strongly marks the lower civilisation of Scotland at this date. At Dundee, he received a check from a Covenanting army under General Baillie, and with some difficulty succeeded in obtaining a refuge in the mountains. Descending again to the plains in Nairnshire, he defeated with great slaughter a small army under Colonel Urry at Auldearn; soon after, he in like manner overthrew Baillie’s forces at Alford. He was now confident enough to promise King Charles the speedy recovery of Scotland; and the king, finding his affairs becoming more and more discouraging in England, was inclined to trust to this promise, and migrate northward. Montrose, however, only distressed his country; he did not conquer or convert it to loyalty. He never accomplished any solid or permanent advantage, but was as much the mere guerrilla chief at the last as at the first. One other victory, gained over a large militia force at Kilsyth (August 1645), left him without any apparent opposition in Scotland. Yet within a few weeks (September 13), he was completely defeated at Philiphaugh, in Selkirkshire, by a body of horse detached under David Leslie from the Scottish army in England; and he was soon after obliged to retire to the continent. Montrose’s course was like that of a meteor, which alarms and excites wonder, but passes without leaving any tangible effects.

Meanwhile the battle of Naseby and the second battle of Newbury had left the king’s cause in a hopeless condition, and at the close of 1645, he was scarcely able to keep the field. It was now absolutely necessary for him to make peace with his subjects, if he hoped to retain even a nominal power or place in the state, and, seeing that the resources of the pure royalists had proved insufficient for his support, his best course would have been to place himself in the hands of the party next in the sentiment of regard for his person. This was the party of Presbyterians, as distinguished from a more extreme party, which had latterly sprung into importance in England, under the name of Independents, who professed to support a primitive form of Christianity without any ecclesiastical organisation whatever. The Presbyterians hated Episcopacy; but they were not averse to a moderate or limited monarchy; while the Independents were generally of republican principles. Charles, unfortunately a bigot for Episcopacy, could not bring himself to sanction the Presbyterian model, even for a limited time on trial. He hoped to bring out a better issue for himself by the dangerous game of playing off the various parties against each other. Having thus lost a good opportunity of treating, he was obliged, in May 1646, to take refuge with the Scottish army at Newark.

Whatever may be thought of the conduct of the Scots in entering into the Solemn League and Covenant, and sending troops against a sovereign who had so thoroughly redressed their own national grievances, there can be no reasonable doubt that they were prompted on that occasion by a pure zeal for their church establishment, and a sympathy with those of the neighbouring nation who desired to be equally free from the rule of bishops. But it cannot be denied that in engaging themselves to ‘endeavour, without respect of persons, the extirpation of popery, prelacy, superstition, heresy, schism, profaneness, and whatsoever shall be contrary to sound doctrine ‘—for such are the terms of the League—they had wholly changed the nature of their policy. From a laudable defence of cherished institutions of their own, menaced with danger, they passed into a very questionable system of propagandism and aggression. It might be said that they were committing the same mistake as King Charles had done in his original policy towards themselves, going against the religious traditions and prepossessions of a people; for, while Puritans and Independents had an apparent ascendency in England, ‘the church,’ nursed by the blood of martyrs, and endeared by long habit, had still a great hold on the bulk of the English nation. Success in such a movement, if it could by any be considered as deserved, was scarcely by common sense to be expected. As if in natural punishment for a great error, nothing had gone well with the Scots ever since. An Assembly of Divines, including commissioners from Scotland, had sat at Westminster for two years, in deliberation on the proper ecclesiastical system and articles of faith to be adopted by both nations; and its decision was substantially for the Presbyterian forms and Calvinistic doctrines so much beloved in the north. But the English House of Commons could never be induced to take any active measures for imposing this decision on the nation, doubtless feeling that it was not generally acceptable. Pure presbytery never came into true operation except in London and in Lancashire. To the Scottish leaders, who had been accustomed to impose and enforce doctrine upon all recusants in their own country, this slackness seemed inexcusable, and occasioned the deepest disappointment. They also found that their army, after the first useful service at Marston Moor, was comparatively neglected in England, and its pay allowed to fall into arrear. Themselves courted at first as allies, they had latterly been little inquired for or consulted; their advices and their remonstrances were alike overlooked. Sternest punishment of all, while their best troops were kept idle and half mendicant in England, Montrose avenged the king’s sense of injury by sweeping their defenceless provinces with the besom of destruction, and putting thousands of hastily armed citizens to the sword. It was a most melancholy result of a movement entered on, as they in all sincerity protested, purely for the glory of God.

There still remained an event most unfortunate for Scotland before the war could be concluded. The arrears of pay due by the English parliament to the Scottish army had been allowed to run up to £1,400,000. The House of Commons tried to abate the sum to a comparative trifle, but ultimately (August 1646) agreed to pay £400,000, the one half immediately, after which the Scots were to retire into their own country. But, meanwhile, the Scots were awkwardly placed by the king being in their camp. If he had agreed to the propositions of the parliament, all would have been well, for then he would have proceeded in peace and honour to London. As he could not be induced to assent to these propositions, a question arose between the two nations as to the disposal of his person. The English parliament affected the sole right to deal with it. The Scottish Estates could not agree to this; but as they were not disposed to take up the king’s cause against the English—and indeed, such a step would have been ruinous— it was not easy for them on any terms or understanding to retain him within their grasp. After much troublesome negotiation, they were induced by some of the leading English Presbyterians to give up the king, in order to facilitate the disbanding of the English army, which latterly was manifesting a refractory spirit. There was scarcely a relation, if any, between the receiving of the arrears of pay and the surrender of the king; nevertheless, as the events took place about the same time, they have become connected in popular conception, to the discredit of the Scottish name. It will be ages before the English commonalty ceases to believe that the Scots sold their king, and for slaughter too, although such a tragical end for his life was certainly not dreamed of by anybody till long after.

The king being now a captive, and his friends reduced to silence, the English parliament set themselves to two objects—a re-establishment of the royal authority on suitable terms, and the disbanding of the army. The king’s obstinacy defeated the one object; the growth of sectarianism in the army balked the other. Charles hoped to thrive by the disunion of these two bodies, and coquetted with both. The army seized his person; but he afterwards escaped, and fell under the care of a kind of neutral power, in the person of the governor of Carisbrook Castle, in the Isle of Wight. The Scots, hating sectarianism, still maintained a modified loyalty. Under the influence of the Duke of Hamilton and a few other nobles, who had come to an understanding or engagement with the king regarding a possible restoration of his authority, the Estates in spring 1648 raised an army in his behalf, thus renewing the Civil War; and with this movement the remaining English loyalists concurred. The more zealous Presbyterians of Scotland denounced it on that account, notwithstanding many plausible pretences set forth in its favour. The English Presbyterians gave it their good-will, but could do little in its behalf. In July, a too hastily prepared army of 15,000 Scots entered England under the command of Hamilton, and proceeded as far as Preston, while a small army of English loyalists marched near by, but, for the sake of appearances, carefully abstained from a junction. A portion of the English army, under Oliver Cromwell, attacked the small body of loyalists and destroyed it; then met and overthrew the Scottish army; soon after which, the Duke of Hamilton was taken prisoner. Cromwell came to Edinburgh, and fraternised with the more zealous Presbyterian leaders, who had by that time resumed an ascendency. Then, returning as a victor to London, with no force to oppose him in any part of the island, he joined with a number of other men of his own stamp, in putting an end to the English monarchy. In January 1649, the king was tried for the alleged crime of raising war upon his subjects, and publicly beheaded.

1637, July
Till the occurrence of the tumult this month, there was, according to the confession of Clarendon, so little curiosity felt in England, either in the court or country, ‘to know anything of Scotland, or what was done there, that, when the whole nation was solicitous to know what passed weekly in Germany, Poland, and other parts of Europe, no man ever inquired what was doing in Scotland, nor had that kingdom a place or mention in one page of any gazette.’

Oct 3
This day began a fall of rain in Morayland, of ten days’ continuance, and attended by effects which remind us of the celebrated flood of 1829; ‘waters and burns flowing up over bank and brae; corn-mills and mill-houses washen down; houses, kilns, cots, faulds wherein beasts were keipit, all destroyed. The corns, weel stacked, began to moch and rot till they were casten over again. Lamentable to see, and whereof the like was never seen before.... There were four ships lying at anchor in the harbour of Aberdeen; in one of which ships Major Ker and Captain Lumsden had a number of soldiers. Through a great spate of the water of Dee, occasioned by this extraordinary rain, thir haill four ships brake loose, for neither tow nor anchor could hold them, and were driven out at the water mouth, upon the night, and by a south-east wind were driven to the north shore, where thir ships were miserably bladded [beaten] with leaks by striking upon the sands. The soldiers, sleeping carelessly in the bottom of the ship upon heather, were all in a swim, to their great amazement and dread. They got up, with horrible crying and shouting; some escaped, other some pitifully perished. About the number of fourscore and twelve soldiers were wanting, drowned or got away.’—Slightly altered from Spalding.

Oct 19
A quantity of gold had been brought into the kingdom by ‘the adventurers of Guinee.’ It was ordered to be formed into coin by Nicolas Briot and John Falconer, masters of the cunyie-bouse, according to the arrangements ordered by the Privy Council in April 1625.—P. C. R. Some gold subsequently brought from the same country to England by the African Company, ‘administered the first occasion,’ as Clarendon tells us, ‘for the coinage of those pieces which, from thence, had the denomination of guineas.' The digging of gold in Guinea is connected in a melancholy way with Scotland, for fifteen hundred of the Scottish prisoners taken at Worcester in September 1651, were granted to the Guinea merchants, ‘to be transported to Guinea to work in the mines there."

Dec 4
In the night arose ‘ane horrible high wind,’ which blew down the rafters of the choir of Elgin Cathedral, left without the slates eighty years before. This fact reminds us how much of the destruction of our ancient ecclesiastical buildings was owing, not to actual or immediate damage at the Reformation, but to neglect afterwards.

Dec 26
This day, in consequence of the late inundation and storms, a bar made its appearance athwart the mouth of the river Dee, ‘mixed with marble, clay, and stones.’ The contemplation of so fatal a stoppage to their harbour threw the citizens of Aberdeen into a state of the greatest anxiety. ‘They fell to with fasting, praying, preaching, mourning, and weeping all day and night. Then they went out with spades, shools, mattocks, and mells, in great numbers, men and women, young and old, at low-water, to cast down this dreadful bar; but all for nought, for as fast as they cast down at a low-water, it gathered again as fast at a full sea.’ The people bad resigned themselves to despair, when ‘the Lord, of his great mercy, without help of mortal man, removed and swept clean away this fearful bar, and made the water mouth to keep its own course, as it was before.’-Slightly altered from Spalding.

On the hill of Echt, in Aberdeenshire, famous for its ancient
fortification called the Barmkyn of Echt, there was heard, almost every night, all this winter, a prodigious beating of drums, supposed to foretell the bloody civil wars which soon after ensued. The parade and retiring of guards, their tattoos, their reveilles, and marches, were all heard distinctly by multitudes of people. ‘Ear-witnesses, soldiers of credit, have told me,’ says Gordon of Rothiemay, ‘that when the parade was beating, they could discern when the drummer walked towards them, or when he tuned about, as the fashion is for drummers, to walk to and again, upon the head or front of a company drawn up. At such times, also, they could distinguish the marches of several nations; and the first marches that were heard there were the Scottish March; afterwards, the Irish March was heard; then the English March. But before these noises ceased, those who had been trained up much of their lives abroad in the German wars, affirmed that they could perfectly, by their hearing, discern the marches upon the drum of several foreign nations of Europe—such as the French, Dutch, Danish, &c. These drums were so constantly heard, that all the country people next adjacent were therewith accustomed; and sometimes these drummers were heard off that hill, in places two or three miles distant. Some people in the night, travelling near by the Loch of Skene, within three mile of that hill, were frighted with the loud noise of drums, struck hard by them, which did convoy them along the way, but saw nothing; as I had it often from such as heard these noises, from the Laird of Skene and his lady, from the Laird of Echt, and my own wife then living in Skene, almost immediately after the people thus terrified had come and told it. Some gentlemen of known integrity and truth affirmed that, near these places, they heard as perfect shot of cannon go off as ever they heard at the battle of Nordlingen, where themselves some years before had been present.’

1638, Feb 8 or 9
By order of the king, in consideration of the rebellious proceedings in Edinburgh, ‘the session sat down in Stirling. Ye may guess if the town of Edinburgh was angry or not.’—Chron. Perth.

Feb 28
This day commenced at Edinburgh the signing of that
NATIONAL COVENANT which for some years exercised so strong an influence over the affairs of Scotland. Public feeling, as far as the great bulk of the people was concerned, had been wrought up to a paroxysm of anxiety and enthusiasm regarding the preservation of the Presbyterian model. An eternal interest was supposed to depend on their not allowing their religion to be assimilated to that of England, and, weighed against this, everything else looked mean and of no account. After the document had been subscribed by the congregation at the Greyfriars’ Church, before whom it was first presented, it went through the city, every one contesting who might be first, many blindly following the example of others—not only men, but ‘women, young people, and servants did swear and hold up their hands to the Covenant.’ Many copies, written out on parchment, and signed by the leading nobles, were carried into the country, and laid before the people of the several towns and districts. ‘The greater that the number of subscribents grew,’ says the parson of Rothiemay, ‘the more imperious they were in exacting subscriptions from others who refused to subscribe; so that by degrees they proceeded to contumelies, and exposing of many to injuries and reproaches, and some were threatened and beaten who durst refuse, especially in greatest cities... Gentlemen and noblemen carried copies of it about in their portmantles and pockets, requiring subscriptions thereto, and using their utmost endeavours with their friends in private for to subscribe... All had power to take the oath, and were licensed and welcome to come in... Such was the zeal of many subscribents, that, for a while, many subscribed with tears on their cheeks; and it is constantly reported that some did draw their own blood, and used it in place of ink to underwrite their names. Such ministers as spoke for it were heard so passionately and with such frequency, that churches could not contain their hearers in cities; some of the devouter sex (as if they had kept vigils) keeping their seats from Friday to Sunday, to get the communion given them sitting; some sitting alway let before such sermons in the churches, for fear of losing a room or place of hearing; or at the least some of their handmaids sitting constantly there all night till their mistresses came to take up their places and to relieve them; so that several (as I heard from very sober and credible men) under that religious confinement, were... These things will scarce be believed, but I relate them upon the credit of such as knew this to be truth.’

The Rev. John Livingstone says: ‘I was present at Lanark, and at several other parishes, when, on a Sabbath, after the forenoon sermon, the Covenant was read and sworn, and may truly say that in all my lifetime, except one day at the Kirk of Shotts, I never saw such motions from the Spirit of God; all the people generally and most willingly concurring; where I have seen more than a thousand persons all at once lifting up their hands, and the tears falling down from their eyes.’

Maitland, describing the Edinburgh copy of the Covenant, says: ‘It is written on a parchment of the length of four feet, and the depth of three feet eight inches, and is so crowded with names on both sides, that there is not the smallest space left for more. It appears that, when there was little room left to sign on, the subscriptions were shortened by only inserting the initials of the Covenanters’ names; which the margin and other parts are so full of, and the subscriptions so close, that it were a difficult task to number them. However, by a cursory view; I take them to be about five thousand in number. - Hist. Ed.

The household book of the Dowager-countess of Mar commencing at this time, and running on for several years, affords a few rays of scattered light regarding the domestic life of the aristocracy of the period. They are not susceptible of being worked up to any general effect, and the reader must therefore take them as they occur.

'April 21, to ane little boy for two buiks of the Covenant, 12s. May 4, for pressing ane red scarlet riding-coat for John the Bairn [a grandson of the countess], 12s. May 16, to ane blind singer who sang the time of dinner, 12s. May 17, ane quire paper, 5s. May 18, to ane of the nourices who dwells at the Muir, who came to thig [beg], 29s. May 25, for ane belt to Lord James [an elder grandson of the countess], 18s.; for ane powder-horn to him, 4s 6d.; for raisins to Lord James and Charles, 10s. June, to William Shearer his wife for ane pair hose to Lord James, £3. Paid for contribution to the Confederat Lords, £4. To ane old blind man as my lady came from prayers, 4s. Edinburgh, July 18, for a periwig to Lord James, £8, 2s. July 19, ane pound and ane half pound of candles, 6s. July 21, ane pound raisins to keep the fasting Sunday, 6s. 8d. July 27, given to the kirk brodd [board], as my lady went to sermon in the High Kirk, 6s. Stirling, August 17, to my lady to give to the French lacquey that served my Lord Erskine when he went back to France, 4s. August 25, sent to my lady, to play with the Lady Glenurchy after supper, 4s. September 1, for making a chest [coffin] to Katherine Ramsay, who deceased the night before, 20s.; for two half pounds tobacco and eighteen pipes to spend at her lykewake, 21s.; to the bellman that went through the town to warn to her burial, 12s.; to the makers of the graff, 12s. 4d. September 8, to twa Highland singing-women, at my lady’s command, 6s. September 23, to ane lame man callit Ross, who plays the plaisant, 3s. Paid for ane golf-club to John the Bairn, 5s. 9th November, to Andrew Erskine, to give to the poor at my lady’s onlouping, 12s. December, paid to John, that he gave to ane woman who brought ane dwarf by my lady, 12s. [Edinburgh], January 23, 1639, to my lady as she went to Lord Belhaven his burial, and to visit my Lady Hume, £5, 8s. February, to Charles [son of the countess], the night he was married, to give the poor, £5, 8s. 3d. February 23, paid for ane pound of raisins to my lady again’ the fasting Sunday, 8s. June 11, to Thom Eld, sent to Alloa for horses to take my lady’s children and servants to the army then lying at the Border, 2s. Paid to the Lady Glenurchy for aqua-vitae that she bought to my lady, 6s. Paid for carrying down the silver wark to the Council house, to be weighed and delivered to the town-treasurer of Edinburgh, 10s. August 23, paid for twa pair sweet gloves to Lord James and Mr Will. Erskine, £3. September 9, to Lord James to play at the totum with John Hamilton, 1s. 4d. To my lady as she went to dine with my Lord Haddington [for vails to the servants?], ane dollar and four shillings. Paid in contribution to Edward the fool, 12s. Paid to Gilbert Somerville, for making ane suit clothes to Lord James of red lined with satin, £7, 10s. November 29, paid to the Lady Glenurchy her man, for ane little barrel of aqua-vitae, £3. May 27, 1640, to ane man who brought the parroquet her cage, 4s. June 15, to ane poor woman as my lady sat at the fishing, 6d. August, for tobacco to my lady’s use, 1s. March 4, 1641, to Blind Wat the piper that day, as my lady went to the Exercise, 4s. March 6, given to John Erskine to buy a cock to fight on Fasten’s Even [Shrovetide], 6s. June 8, to ane masterful beggar who did knock at the gate, my lady being at table, 2s. [It was then customary to lock the outer door during dinner.] November 15, [the countess having visited Edinburgh to see the king], given for two torches to lighten in my lady to court, to take her leave of the king, 24s. February 21, 1642, sent to Sir Charles Erskine to buy escorse de sidrone and marmolat, £5, 6s. 8d. March 21, to ane woman clairshocher [harper] who usit the house in my lord his time, 12s. August 10, to John Erskine to buy a bladder for trying a mathematical conclusion. December 7, paid for three white night-matches [caps] to my Lord of Buchan, £3, 12s. January 13, 1643, for ane Prognostication [an almanac], 8d. February 17, for dressing ane red four-tailed coat of Mr William’s, 1s. 8d. February 13, to my lady in her own chamber, when the Valentines were a-drawing, £10, 12s. 4d. April 13, to Mr William Erskine, to go to the dwarf’s marriage, 7s. 6d.’

July 20
While the generality of the Lowland people of Scotland were wrought up to the highest pitch of enthusiasm in favour of Presbyterianism, the inhabitants of Aberdeen and the surrounding district remained faithful to a moderate Episcopacy, and therefore disinclined to accept the Covenant. It was a crisis to make men impatient of dissent in a milder age than the seventeenth century. As men then felt about religion—perfectly assured that they themselves were right, and that dissent was perdition—this Aberdonian recusancy could look for no gentle treatment; and it met with none. The first assault, however, was not of a very deadly character.

It was under the leadership of the young Earl of Montrose—afterwards so energetic on the other side—that a Covenanting deputation came to Aberdeen with the bond into which most of the nation had entered. ‘The provost and bailies courteously salute them at their lodging, offers them wine and comfits, according to their laudable custom, for their welcome; but this their courteous offer was disdainfully refused, saying they would drink none with them while [till] first the Covenant was subscribed; whereat the provost and bailies were somewhat offended. Always they took their leave, [and] suddenly cause deal the wine in the Bede-house amang the puir men, whilk they so disdainfully had refused; whereof the like was never done to Aberdeen in no man’s memory.’ —Spal.

This discourteous party included, besides the Earl of Montrose, Lord Arbuthnot, the Lairds of Morphy and Dun, and three ministers, Cant, Dickson, and Henderson. ‘Because they could not get entres to our church to preach, they went to the Earl of Marischal his close in the Castle Gate, and preached three sermons on Sunday, where they had such enticing sermons for the common people, that after ages will not believe it. I was both an eye and ear witness to them. At that time, they were [sac] cried up and doated upon, that the Laird of Leys (otherwise ane wise man) did carry Mr Andrew Cant his books. Yet at that time there was but very few that subscribed, only fourteen men, [including] Provost Lesly, ane ringleader, but afterwards he did repent it . . . . Alexander Jaffray, Alexander Burnet.... and some others, but not of great quality; for at this time, good reader, thou shalt understand that there was worthy preachers in Aberdeen, as Britain could afford.. . . . Thir men had many disputes with the Covenanters, for they wrote against other plies, replies, duplies, thriplies, and quadruplies; but in all these disputes the Covenanters came as short to the ministers of Aberdeen as ane grammarian to a divine.’—Ab. Re..

The Aberdeen doctors, as they were called, formed a remarkable body of men, learned much above Scotch divines in general, of that or any subsequent age. Dr John Forbes of Corse, professor of divinity; Dr William Leslie, principal and professor of divinity in King’s College; Dr Robert Barron, principal and professor of divinity in Marischal College; and Drs Scroggie, Sibbald, and Ross, ministers; were all prepared to defend the moderate Episcopacy against which the Covenanters were waging war; and there exists an unchallenged and uniform report of their having had the superiority in the argument, though all incompetent to stem the torrent of enthusiasm which had set in against them. It was under the dignified patronage and care of the late Bishop Patrick Forbes, that these men had grown up in Aberdeen, ‘a society more learned and accomplished than Scotland had hitherto known." Connected with them in locality were other men of talents and accomplishment - Arthur Johnston, John Leech, and David Wedderburn, all writers of elegant Latin poetry—thus adding to the reputation which Aberdeen enjoyed as a seat of learning, that of a favourite seat of the Muses. For some years this system of things had flourished at the northern city, amidst handsome collegiate buildings, tasteful churches, and scenes of elegant domestic life. One cannot reflect without a pang on the wreck it was destined to sustain under the rude shocks imparted by a religious enthusiasm which regarded nothing but its own dogmas, and for these sacrificed everything. The university sustained a visitation from the Presbyterian Assembly of 1640, and was thenceforth much changed. ‘The Assembly’s errand,’ says Gordon of Rothiemay, ‘was thoroughly done; these eminent divines of Aberdeen either dead, deposed, or banished; in whom fell more learning than was left in all Scotland beside at that time. Nor has that city, nor any city in Scotland, ever since seen so many learned divines and scholars at one time together as were immediately before this in Aberdeen. From that time forwards, learning began to be discountenanced; and such as were knowing in antiquity and in the writings of the fathers, were had in suspicion as men who smelled of popery; and he was most esteemed of, who affected novelism and singularity most; and the very form of preaching, as weel as the materials, was changed for the most part. Learning was nicknamed human learning, and some ministers so far cried it down in their pulpits, as they were heard to say: "Down doctrine, and up Christ! "

Aug 8
As a characteristic incident of the period—an outlaw of the Macgregor clan, named John Dhu Ger, came this day with his associates to the lands of Stuart, Laird of Corse, in the upper vales of Aberdeenshire, and began to despoil them, pretending to be the king’s man, and that what he did was only justice, as against a rebellious Covenanter. ‘Wherever he came in Strylay and other places, he would take their horse, kine, and oxen, and cause the owners compound and pay for their own geir... He took out of the Laird of Corse’s bounds a brave gentleman-tenant dwelling there, and carried him with him, and sent word to the laird, desiring him to send him a thousand pounds, whilk the lords of Council had given his name [the Stuarts of Athole] for taking of Gilderoy, or then he would send this man’s head to him. The Laird of Corse rode shortly to Strathbogie, and told the marquis, who quickly wrote to Macgregor, to send back Mr George Forbes again, or then he would come himself for him. But he was obeyed, and [Forbes] came to Strathbogie, haill and sound upon the 15th of August, but [without] payment of any ransom.’— Altered from Spalding.

‘This year was ane very dry year, for about the end of August all the corns was within the yards.’—Ab. Re.

Amidst the excitement of the time, a young woman named Mitchelson, who had been subject to fits, attracted attention in Edinburgh by becoming a sort of prophetess or Pythoness of the Covenant. ‘She was acquainted with the Scripture, and much taken with the Covenant, and in her fits spoke much to its advantage, and much ill to its opposers, that would, or at least that she wished to befall them. Great numbers of all ranks of people were her daily hearers; and many of the devouter sex prayed and wept, with joy and wonder, to hear her speak. When her fits came upon her, she was ordinarily thrown upon a down bed, and there prostrate, with her face downwards, spoke such words as were for a while carefully taken from her mouth by such as were skilful in brachygraphy. She had intermissions of her discourses for days and weeks; and before she began to speak, it was made known through Edinburgh. Mr Harry Rollock [one of the clergymen of Edinburgh], who often came to see her, said that he thought it was not good manners to speak while his Master was speaking, and that he acknowledged his Master’s voice in her. Some misconstered her to be suborned by the Covenanters, and at least that she had nothing that savoured of a rapture, but only of memory, and that still she knew what she spoke, and, being interrupted in her discourse, answered pertinently to the purpose. Her language signified little: she spoke of Christ, and called him Covenanting Jesus; that the Covenant was approved from heaven; that the king’s covenant was Satan’s invention; that the Covenant should prosper, but the adherents to the king’s covenant should be confounded; and much other stuff of this nature, which savoured at best of senseless simplicity. The Earl of Airth, upon a time, getting a paper of her prophecies, which was inscribed, "that, such a day and such a year, Mrs Mitchelson awoke and spoke gloriously," in place of the word "gloriously," which he blotted out, writt over it the word "gowkedly" or foolishly, [and] was so much distested for a while among the superstitious admirers of this maid, that he had like to have run the fate of one of the bishops, by a charge with stones upon the street. But this blazing star quickly vanished...'

There seems no reason to doubt that Mrs Mitchelson was a sincere young woman, but in an unsound nervous condition. Ecstatics like her are common in the Romish Church, in which case there is much tendency to visions of St Catherine, instead of ravings about the Covenant. From analogous cases of persons under hallucinations, the giving pertinent answers to ordinary questions, which Gordon adduces as a ground of doubt, does not necessarily infer that Mrs Mitchelson was a cunning woman playing a part.

1639, Feb
The Earl of Montrose went about in the north country with a large armed band, forcing the Covenant upon those who were disinclined to sign it, and raising funds for the use of the Covenanting party. As it never once occurred to the ‘Tables’ that anybody could have a conscientious scruple on the subject, much less that any scruple called for respect and forbearance, force seemed quite fair as a means of attaining to uniformity. The city of Aberdeen, looking with apprehension to this kind of mission, ‘began to choose out captains, ensigns, sergeants, and other officers for drilling their men in the Links, and learning them to handle their arms;’ also ‘to big up their back yetts, close their ports, have their catbands in readiness, their cannons clear, and had ane strict watch day and night keepit.’—Spal. All this to battle off an Idea. Still they feared it might not be sufficient. So, looking to the victual they had against a siege, they began to cast ditches, and towards the south raised up timber sconces, clad with deals. They had eleven pieces of ordnance, each provided with a sconce, planted commodiously on the streets. In short, it was a town pretty well fortified, as such things were in those days, and no doubt the worthy citizens were in good hopes of resisting the storm of Christian reformation which was mustering against them. Alas!

It soon became evident to the poor Aberdonians that, however well their doctors might argue, the Covenant was not to be resisted. Dismayed at the accounts they got of large forces mustering against them, they abandoned all design of defence. All that the more notable friends of the king and church could do was to fly.

Spalding’s account of the entry of the Covenanting militia under Montrose and Leslie into Aberdeen is highly picturesque.

Mar 30
they came in order of battle, weel armed both on horse and foot, ilk horseman having five shot at the least... ane carabine on his hand, two pistols by his sides, and two at his saddle-tore. The pikemen in their ranks [with] pike and sword; the musketeers in their ranks with musket, musket-staff, bandelier, sword, powder, ball, and match. Ilk company both on horse and foot had their captains, lieutenants, ensigns, sergeants, and other officers and commanders, all for the most part in buff coats and goodly order. They had five colours or ensigns. . . . They had trumpeters to ilk company of horsemen, and drummers to ilk company of footmen. They had their meat, drink, and other provision, bag and baggage, carried with them, done all by advice of his Excellency Field-marshal Leslie... Few of this army wanted ane blue ribbon hung about his craig [neck] down under his left arm, whilk they called the Covenanter’s Ribbon... [Having passed to the Links], muster being made, all men was commanded to go to breakfast, either in the Links or in the town. The general himself:, the nobles, captains, commanders, for the most part, and soldiers, sat down, and of their awn provision, upon ane serviet on their knee, took their breakfast’ Here was a sight for a poor town of Episcopalian prepossessions—eleven thousand men come to convert them to proper views! This was on Saturday: on the Tuesday, all persons of any note, and all persons in any authority in the city, were glad to come before the marching committee and subscribe and swear the Covenant, ‘albeit they had sworn the king’s covenant before.’ A week later, a solemn fast was kept; and after sermon by one of the marching clergy, the Covenant was read out, and he ‘causit the haill town’s people convened, who had not yet subscribed, to stand up before him in the kirk, both men and women, and the men subscribed this Covenant. Thereafter, both men and women was urged to swear by their uplifted hands to God, that they did subscribe and swear this Covenant willingly, freely, and from their hearts, and not from any fear or dread that could happen. Syne the kirk scaled and dissolved. But the Lord knows that thir town’s people were brought under perjury for plain fear, and not from a willing mind, by tyranny and oppression of thir Covenantars, who compelled them to swear and subscribe, suppose they knew it was against their hearts.’—Spal.

As a pleasant finale, to compensate in some degree for the trouble they had given, the citizens were laid under a contribution of ten thousand merks, besides being forced to promise their taking share in all expenses that might thereafter be necessary for promotion of the good cause.

May 25
Aberdeen had not kept steady in the Covenanting faith—since so solemnly and sincerely signing the bond in April, it had maintained a loyal correspondence with the king. The Covenanters, now on the eve of their expedition to Dunse Law, had to take order with it; and as the movement at such a moment was inconvenient, they were in no good-humour. What happened, as described in the simple notes of the town-clerk Spalding, gives such a picture of civil war as it may be salutary to keep in mind.

‘They were estimate to 4000 men, foot and horse, by [besides] baggage-horse 300, having and carrying their provision, with thirteen field-pieces. They enterit the town at the over Kirkgate in order of battle, with sounding of trumpets, touting of drums, and displayed banners; went down through the Braid-gate, through the Castle-gate, and to the Queen’s Links march they....Now Aberdeen began to groan and make sore lamentation at the incoming of this huge army, whom they were unable to sustain, or get meat to buy.

‘Upon the 26th, being Sunday, the Earl of Montrose, with the rest of the nobles, heard devotion; but the renegate soldiers, in time of both preachings, is abusing and plundering New Aberdeen pitifully, without regard to God or man. And in the meantime, garse and corn eaten and destroyed about both Aberdeens, without fear of the maledictions of the poor labourers of the ground... The bishop’s servants saved his books, and other insight and plenishing, and hid them in neighbours’ houses of the town, from the violence of the soldiers, who brake down and demolishit all they could get within the bishop’s house, without making any great benefit to themselves... Richt sae, the corns were eaten and destroyed by the horse of this great army, both night and day, during their abode. The salmon-fishers, both of Dee and Don, masterfully oppressed, and their salmon taken from them....The country round about was pitifully plundered, meal girnels broken up, eaten, and consumed; no fowl, cock or hen, left unkilled. The haill house-dogs, messans, and whelps within Aberdeen, fellit and slain upon the gate, so that neither hound nor messan nor other dog was left that they could see. The reason was, when the first army came here, ilk captain, commander, servant, and soldier had ane blue ribbon about his craig [neck]; in despite and derision whereof, when they removed frae Aberdeen, some women, as was alleged, knit blue ribbons about their messans’ craigs, whereat their soldiers took offence, and killit all the dogs for this cause.

‘They took frae Aberdeen ten thousand merks to save it from plundering, and took twelve pieces of ordnance also from them.... The town, seeing themselves sore oppressed by the feeding and susteining of thir armies without payment, besides other slaveries, began heavily to regret their miseries to the general and rest of the nobles and commanders, saying they had subscribed the Covenant..... There was no compassion had to their complaints... So the country anti-Covenanters was pitifully plagued and. plundered in their victuals, fleshes, fowls, and other commodities, whilk bred great scarcity in this land...'

This was but a beginning of the troubles and damages of Aberdeen from civil war. In the very next month, in consequence of the town being taken possession of by a royalist band under the Earl of Aboyne, a Covenanting army came against it, and forcing its way in, subjected it to further fining and spoiling. Altogether, the Aberdonians considered themselves as having been injured to the extent of £12,000 sterling in the first half of this year, besides thirty-two of the citizens being fined specially in 42,000 merks. It would be tedious to enumerate the losses of the city during the few subsequent years.

Gordon of Rothiemay notes a quasi prodigy as happening at Dunse Law while the Scottish army lay there. It has a whimsical character, as connecting the Covenanting war with a geological fact. The matter consisted of ‘the falling of a part of a bank upon the steep side of a hill near by to the Scottish camp, which of its own accord had shuffled downward, and by its fall discovered innumerable stones, round, for the most part, in shape, and perfectly spherical, some of them oval-shapen. They were of a dark gray colour, some of them yellowish, and for quantity they looked like ball of all sizes, from a pistol to field-pieces, such as askers or robenets, or battering-pieces upwards. Smooth they were, and polished without, but lighter than lead by many degrees, so that they were only for show, but not for use. Many of them were carried about in men’s pockets, to be seen for the rarity. Nor wanted there a few who interpreted this stone magazine at Dunse Hill as a miracle, as if God had sent this by ane hid providence for the use of the Covenanters for at this time all things were interpreted for the advantage of the Covenant. Others looked upon these pebble-stones as prodigious, and the wiser sort took no notice of them at all. I suppose that at this present the quarry is extant, where they are yet to be seen, no more a miracle; but whether the event has determined them to be a prodigy or not, I shall not take it upon me to define pro or con.’

A modem writer may feel little difficulty in defining this magazine of pebbles as merely part of an ancient alluvial terrace, such as are found in most mountain valleys in Scotland, being, in geological theory, the relics of gravel-beds deposited in these situations by the streams, when, from a lower relative position of the land, the sea partially occupied these glens in the form of estuaries. On the banks of the Whitadder, close to Dunse Law, we still see such banks of pebbles, the water-rolled spoils of the Lammermuirs, and chiefly of the transition or Silurian rocks. It gives a lively impression of the excited state of men’s minds in the time and place, to find them accepting, or disposed to accept, so simple a natural phenomenon as something significant of the attention of Providence to the strife which they were unhappily waging.

At this time we hear of some strangers from England and Ireland who had crept in and drawn the people to certain religious practices, accordant with the general strain of the period, but not exactly with the specific regulations prescribed by the Presbyterian Kirk. At their own hands, without the allowance of minister or elders, the people had begun to convene themselves confusedly about bedtime in private houses, where, for the greater part of the night, they would expound Scripture, pray, and sing psalms, besides ‘discussing questions of divinity, whereof some sae curious that they do not understand, and some so ridiculous that they cannot be edified by them.’ The consequence was, that they began to ‘lichtly and set at naught the public worship of God.’ Seeing in this a movement towards Brownism, the kirk-session of Stirling called on the presbytery to take the matter into consideration, and meanwhile discharged the congregation from giving any favour to such practices.’

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