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Domestic Annals of Scotland
Reign of George I: 1714 - 1727 Part 1

THE Tory ministry of Anne, which had certainly meditated some attempt at the restoration of the Stuart line, were para­lysed, as we have seen, by her death, and allowed the accession of George of Hanover to take place without opposition. The new king had no sooner settled himself in London, than he displaced the late queen’s advisers, and surrounded himself with the Whigs, whom he knew to be his only true friends. The sharpness of this proceeding, added to the general discontent, produced an almost immediate insurrection. Two of the ex-ministers - the Duke of Ormond and Lord Bolingbroke_- went to France, and attached themselves to the exiled court. The Earl of Mar, after in vain attempting to obtain the favour of King George, repaired to his native country, and, on the 6th of September 1715, set up the standard of rebellion in Aberdeenshire, although he is said to have had no commission to that effect from the rival prince. This nobleman, who had acted as Secretary of State under the late government, was speedily surrounded with hundreds of armed men, chiefly of the Highland clans, who were willing to be led by him to battle.

The government had at this time only a few regiments in Scotland, not exceeding in all fifteen hundred men, and these could not be concentrated in one place, without leaving the rest of the country exposed. They were, however, put under the command of the Duke of Argyle, a young soldier who had served under Marlborough, and at one time commanded the British troops in Spain. The government could not well spare more men for service in Scotland, as England, being threatened with a corresponding invasion from France, required a large number of the disposable troops for its own defence, and also for the purpose of preventing a rising among the native Jacobites. An attempt was made to surprise Edinburgh  Castle in behalf of the Chevalier, and it would have in all likelihood succeeded, but for the folly of one or two of the conspirators. By this enter­prise, if successful, the Duke of Argyle must have been disabled for keeping together his small army, and the whole of the south of Scotland would at once have fallen into the hands of the insur­gent general, if he had been gifted with common energy to take it into his Possession.

Mar entered Perth on the 28th of September, having with him about five thousand horse and foot, fully armed. Among his Highland adherents were the chieftains of Clanranald and Glengarry, the Earl of Breadalbane, and the Marquis of Tullibardine (eldest son of the Duke of Athole), all of whom brought their clansmen into the field. Among the Lowland Jacobites who had already joined him were the Earls of Panmure and Strath­more, with, many of the younger sons of considerable families. On the 2d of October, a party of his troops performed the dex­terous exploit of surprising a government vessel on the Firth of Forth opposite to Burntisland, and taking from it several hundred stand of arms, which it was about to carry to the north, for the purpose of arming the Whig Earl of Sutherland against his Jacobite neighbours. This gave a little éclat to the enterprise.

The government, in order to encourage loyalty at this dan­gerous crisis, obtained an act, adjudging the estates of the insurgents to such vassals, holding of them, as should remain at peace. The state-officers were also very active in apprehending suspected persons, especially in England. Some gentlemen in the northern counties, fearing that this would be their fate, met on the 6th of October at Rothbury, and soon increased to a considerable party. Among them were Mr Forster, member of Parliament for Northumberland, and Lord Widdrington. They made an advance to Newcastle, but were deterred from attacking it.       They then concentrated themselves at Hexham, and opened a communication with Lord Mar. About the same time, the Viscount Kenmure, and the Earls of Nithsdale, Wintoun, and Carnwath appeared in arms in the south of Scotland, with a considerable band of followers, and a junction was soon after effected between the two parties.

As the Earl of Mar was loath to leave the Highlands, where immense bands were mustering to join him, he resolved to make no attempt upon the Duke of Argyle, who had now posted his small force at Stirling Bridge, which forms the only free pass between the north and south of Scotland. The Earl, however, thought it expedient to send a detachment of upwards of two thousand of his infantry across the Firth of Forth, in order to co-operate with him, when the proper time should arrive, by falling upon the duke in flank. This party was placed under the command of Brigadier Mackintosh of Borlumn, an old officer, who had been regularly trained under Marlborough. By making a feint at Burntisland, to which point they attracted the war-vessels on the firth, about sixteen hundred got safely over to East Lothian, and immediately marched upon Edinburgh, which was then defenceless. The provost, however, had time to call the Duke of Argyle to his aid, who entered the west gate of the city with five hundred horse, at the same time that Mackintosh was approaching its eastern limit. The insurgent chief turned aside to Leith, and barricaded his men in the old dismantled citadel of Cromwell. There he was called to surrender next day by the duke, but returned a haughty defiance, and the assailing party had to retire to wait for cannon. The brigadier took the opportunity that night to march back to East Lothian, where for a day or two he garrisoned Seton House, the princely seat of the Earl of Wintoun. The Duke of Argyle was obliged to leave him unmolested, in order to return to Stirling, upon which he learned that the Earl of Mar was marching with his whole force. The insurgent general was in reality only anxious to call him off from the party under Mackintosh. The capital being now pro­tected by volunteers, that officer, in obedience to the commands of the Earl of Mar, marched to Kelso, where he formed a junction with the English and Lowland cavaliers.

There were now two Jacobitc armies in Scotland—one at Perth, and another at Kelso. It was the obvious policy of both to have attempted to break up the Duke of Argyle’s encamp­ment, which was the sole obstacle to their gaining possession of Scotland; but this the Earl of Mar either found inconvenient or imprudent, and the party at Kelso was soon diverted to another scene of action. After a delay of some days, and much unhappy wrangling among themselves, it was determined by the leaders of this body to march into the west of England, where, as the country abounded with Jacobites, they expected to raise a large reinforcement. They therefore moved along the Border by Jedburgh, Hawick, and Langholm, followed by a government force much inferior to themselves in numbers, under the com­mand of General Carpenter. On the 31st of October they entered England, all except a few hundred Highlanders, who had determined to go home, and who were mostly seized by the country people upon the march.

Hitherto, the insurrection had been a spontaneous movement of the friends of the Chevalier, under the self-assumed direction of the Earl of Mar. It was now put into proper form by the earl receiving a commission as generalissimo from the royal personage in whose behalf he was acting. Henceforth the insurgent forces were supported by a regular daily pay of threepence in money, with a certain quantity of provisions, the necessary funds being raised by virtue of the Earl’s commission, in the shape of a land-tax, which was rendered severer to the enemies than to the friends of the cause. The army was now increased by two thousand five hundred men brought by the Marquis of Huntly, eldest son of the Duke of Gordon, and nearly four thousand who arrived, under the charge of the Earl of Seaforth, from the North Highlands. Early in November, there could not be fewer than sixteen thousand men in arms throughout the country for the Stuarts, a force tripling that with which Prince Charles penetrated into England at a later and less auspicious period. Yet even with all, or nearly all this force at his command, the Earl of Mar permitted the Duke of Argyle to protect the Lowlands and the capital with about three thousand men.

At length, on the 10th of November, having gathered nearly all the forces he could expect, he resolved to force the pass so well guarded by his opponent. When the Duke of Argyle learned that Mar was moving from Perth, he resolved to cross the Forth and meet his enemy on as advantageous ground as possible on the other side, being afraid that the superior numbers of the insurgents might enable them to advance upon more points of the river than he had troops to defend. He drew up his forces on the lower part of a swelling waste called the Sheriffmuir, with the village of Dunblane in his rear. His whole force amounted to three thousand three hundred men, of whom twelve hundred were cavalry. Mar, reinforced on the march by the West Highland clans under General Gordon, advanced to battle with about nine thousand men, including some squadrons of horse, which were composed, however, of only country gentlemen and their retainers. Although the insurgents thus greatly outnumbered their opponents, the balance was in some measure restored by Mar’s total ignorance of the military art, and the undisciplined character of his troops; while Argyle, on the other hand, had conducted armies under the most critical circumstances, and his men were not only perfectly trained, but possessed that supe­riority which consists in the mechanical regularity and firmness with which such troops must act. On the night of the 12th, the two armies lay within four miles of each other. Next morning, they were arranged by their respective commanders in two lines, the extremities of which were protected by horse. On meeting, however, at the top of the swelling eminence which had been interposed between them, it was found that the right wing of each greatly outflanked the left wing of the other army. The commanders, who were stationed at this part of their various hosts, immediately charged, and as in neither ease there was much force opposed to them, they were both to some extent successful. The Duke of Argyle beat back the left wing of the insurgents, consisting of Highland foot and Lowland cavalry, to the river Allan. The Earl of Mar, in like manner, drove the left wing of the royal army, which was commanded by General Whitham, to the Forth. Neither of these triumphant parties knew of what was done elsewhere, but both congratulated them­selves upon their partial success. In the afternoon, the Earl of Mar returned with the victorious part of his army to an eminence in the centre of the field, whence he was surprised, soon after, to observe the Duke of Argyle leading back the victorious part of his army by the highway to Dunblane. The total want of intelligence on each side, and the fear which ignorance always engenders, prevented these troops mutually from attacking each other. The duke retired to the village; the earl drew off towards Perth, whither a large part of his army had already fled in the character of defeated troops: and thus the action was altogether indecisive.

Several hundreds were slain on both sides; the Earl of  Strath­more and the chieftain of Clanranald fell on the side of the insurgents; the Earl of Forfar on that of the royalists. The Duke  of Argyle reappeared next morning on the field, in order to renew the action; but finding that Mar was in full retreat to Perth, he was enabled to retire to Stirling with all the spoils of the field, and the credit of having frustrated the design of the insurgent general to cross the Forth. Even that part of his army which was discomfited by the Earl of Mar, had nevertheless become possessed of the principal standard of the enemy.

This day was fatal to the cause of the Chevalier in another part of the kingdom. The large party of united Scots and English, under Forster, had penetrated to Lancashire, without gaining any such accessions of force as had been expected. On the 12th of November they were assailed in the town of Preston by a considerable force under General Willis, who had concen­trated the troops of a large district in order to oppose their march. For this day, they defended themselves effectually by barricading the streets; but next day the enemy was increased by a large force under General Carpenter, and the unfortunate Jacobites then found it necessary to surrender, upon the simple condition that they should not be immediately put to the sword. Forster, Kenmure, Nithsdale, Wintoun, and Mackintosh, with upwards of a hundred other persons of distinction, including a brave and generous young nobleman, the Earl of Derwentwater, were taken prisoners. The common men, in number about fourteen hundred, were disposed about the country in prisons, while their superiors were conducted to London, and, after being exposed in an ignominious procession on the streets—a mark of the low taste as well as of the political animosity of the time— imprisoned in Newgate on a charge of high treason.

The affairs of the Chevalier now began to decline in Scotland. The Earl of Sutherland, having established a garrison at Inver­ness, afforded to the Earl of Seaforth and the Marquis of Huntly an excuse for withdrawing their forces from Perth. Some of the other clans went home to deposit their spoil, or because they could not endure to be taunted for their bad behaviour at Sheriffmuir. The army being thus reduced to about four thousand men, various officers began to think of capitulating with the Duke of Argyle. To this there was one serious objection. In compliance with a pressing invitation which they had despatched in better times, they were daily expecting their prince to arrive amongst them. Nevertheless, the Earl of Mar was compelled to open a negotiation with the royalist general. In answer to their message, the duke informed them that he had no power to treat with them as a body, but would immediately send to court to ask for the required instructions. They were in this posture when the unfortunate son of James VII. landed (December 22) at Peterhead, and advanced to the camp to put himself at their head. The Earl of Mar and some other officers went to Fetteresso to meet him, and to apprise him of the present state of his affairs. Although greatly dejected by what he heard, and much reduced in health by a severe ague, he resolved to establish himself in royal state at Perth, in the hope of reanimating the cause. Advancing through Brechin and Dundee, he entered Perth in a ceremonious manner on the 9th of January; but he could not conceal his mortification, on finding how much his forces were reduced in number. It was, nevertheless, determined that he should be crowned at Scone on the 23d. If he was disappointed with his adherents, they were no less so with him. Whether from natural softness of character or through the influence of his late malady, or from despair of his present circumstances, he appeared exceedingly tame and inanimate; quite the reverse, in every respect, of the bold and stirring chief required for such an enterprise.

The Duke of Argyle, having now received large reinforcements from England, besides three thousand Dutch troops, sent in terms of the treaty of Utrecht, found himself as superior in numbers to the Earl of Mar as that general had been to him in the early part of the campaign. On the 23d of January, the day on which the Chevalier was to have been crowned, the royalist troops commenced their march upon Perth, through deep snow. To retard their progress, all the villages upon the road were burned by the insurgents. It was now debated at Perth whether they ought to remain within the town and defend them­selves against the royal forces, who, in this weather, must suffer severely in the fields, or to march northward and disperse. A great part of the clans were anxious in the highest degree for a battle with the duke; but the safety of the Chevalier’s person was a consideration which precluded all desperate hazards. It was resolved to vacate Perth. Accordingly, on the 30th of January, a day ominous to the House of Stuart, from its being the anniversary of the death of Charles I., the remains of the Highland army deployed across the river, then covered with thick ice, and marched to Dundee. The duke entered the town with his vanguard, only twelve hours after the rear-guard of the insurgents had left it. But the state of the roads rendered it impossible for him, with all the appurtenances of a regular army, to overtake the light-footed mountaineers. He followed on their track towards Aberdeen, at the distance of one or two marches behind them. At Montrose, the Chevalier and the Earl of Mar provided for their own safety by going on board a French vessel. The army, which had been. fast declining by the way, was finally disbanded on the 7th of February at Aberdeen, after which every man shifted for himself. Thus ended the insurrection of 1715, an enterprise begun without concert or preparation, and which languished so much throughout all its parts, that it could hardly he considered in any other light than as an appearance of certain friends of the house of Stuart in arms.

The Earl of Derwentwater and the Viscount Kenmure were the only individuals of distinction who suffered death for this rebellion. They were beheaded on Tower hill on the 24th of February. All the rest of the noblemen and gentlemen taken at Preston either made their escape from Ncwgate, which on this occasion manifested a peculiar irretentiveness, or were pardoned. About twenty inferior persons were executed. There were, however, at least forty families of distinction in Scotland whose estates were forfeited. It is to be mentioned, to the honour of the Argyle family, that they counselled lenient measures, and set the example by not taking advantage of the law against such of their vassals as had forfeited their estates into their hands as superiors.

The miserable failure of this effort for the House of Stuart, and its dismal consequences, neither allayed the wishes nor extin­guished the hopes of the Jacobite party. Firm in the principle of hereditary right, convinced that the prosperity and happiness of the country could only be secured through their legitimate prince, seeing in every shortcoming and error of the reigning house and ministry confirmation of their doctrines, they never once faltered in believing that a restoration was worthy of a civil war. They only admitted now, that, for success, the assistance of some foreign state was indispensable.

Unfortunately for the hopes of the party, the favour of France for the Stuart cause was at this time lost, in consequence of the necessity of which the Regent Orleans felt himself under of culti­vating the alliance of Britain, that he might strengthen himself against the Spanish branch of the House of Bourbon. Even a home could no longer be afforded by France for the unfortunate son of James VII.; and it now occurs, as a curious instance of the vicissitudes of fortune among historical persons, that the diplomate who negotiated for his expulsion beyond the Alps (the Earl of Stair) was the grandson of one whom James VII. had driven to Holland little more than thirty years before.

Rather oddly, while the Stuart Party lost France, prospects opened to them in quarters wholly new. It pleased the half-crazed Charles XII. of Sweden to take umbrage at George I. for aid given to some of his enemies; and he formed the resolution to dethrone the British monarch, and replace his rival. There was only a total want of ships of war and transports for effecting this object. Even from the great rival of the Swede, Peter of Russia, some hopes were at one time entertained. At length, Spain, under the ambitious politics of her celebrated minister Alberoni, found it for her interest to take up in a decided manner the cause of the Stuart. In spring 1719, an expedition, comprehending a few companies of infantry and a considerable quantity of arms, passed from St Sebastian to the isle of Lewis, under the care of the Earl Marischal and the Marquis of Tulli­bardine, designing to raise and arm the Highland clans. A landing was conducted in Loch Alsh amongst the friendly Mac­kenzies, whose chief, the Earl of Seaforth, accompanied. the expedition, and very quickly there were a thousand natives in arms, in addition to the Spanish companies. But a foreign force of such a trivial character was quite insufficient to induce a general rising. While the Jacobite chiefs lingered in Glenshiel, with only about fifteen hundred men in arms, a government force of rather superior numbers was conducted northward by General Wightman. It would have been easy to prevent this force from entering the Mackenzie country; but no attempt to that effect was made. The two parties came into conflict on the 11th of June, and the royal commander had 142 men killed and wounded, without accomplishing a decisive victory. It was seen, however, by the Jacobite chiefs, two of whom were wounded, that nothing more could be effected at present; and it was therefore arranged that the Spanish troops should next day surrender themselves, while the Highlanders should disperse. General Wightman was happy to carry southwards 274 Spanish prisoners, without attempting to inflict any punishment upon the rebels.

For some years afterwards, the agents of the Stuart prince were actively engaged in keeping up his interest in Scotland. A large proportion of the Highland clans and of the Lowland nobility and gentry, along with the entire body of the Episco­palian clergy, were his friends; but with the great bulk of the Presbyterian middle classes his pretensions found little favour, and in the constantly increasing comfort of the people through the pursuits of peaceful industry his chance was always becoming less. Having married a Polish princess, he became in 1720 the father of a prince named Charles Edward, who was destined to make one last and brilliant, but unsuccessful effort for the restoration of the family.

King George I., dying in June 1727, was quietly succeeded by his son George II., with little change in the Whig set of states­men by which the affairs of the country had long been conducted. During the latter years of the first Hanover sovereign, the Duke of Argyle and his brother, the Earl of Ilay, were the men of chief influence in Scotland. It was a period remarkable in several respects, but particularly for the first decided development of the industrial energies of the people, and for considerable changes in their manners and habits. For a number of minor incidents, verging or trenching on the domain of political history, reference must be made to the chronicle.

1714, Oct
The strong sense of religious duty at this time connected with the observance of Sunday, is strikingly shewn in the conduct of the deputation sent by the Church of Scotland to present a loyal address to George I. on his accession. Reaching Barnby Moor on a Saturday night, and finding there was no place of public worship which they were ‘clear’ to attend within a reachable distance, ‘we resolved,’ says Mr Hart, ‘to spend the Lord’s Day as well as we could. So each having retired alone for some time in the morning) we breakfasted about ten of the clock, and after that Messrs Linning, Ramsay, Adams, Mr Linning’s man, and I, did shut our chamber-door, and went about worship. I read, sung, and prayed, and then we retired again to our several chambers, and met about two of the clock, and Mr Ramsay read, sung, and prayed; and after that we retired to our several chambers, and met between four and five, supped, and, after supper, Mr Linning read, sung, and prayed, and after we had sat a while we retired, and so prepared for bed. Thus we spent the Lord’s Day at Barnby Moor.’

It may be imagined that no small distress was given to the clergy generally two years after, when it was reported that Mr William Hamilton and Mr William Mitchell, in returning recently from London, had travelled post on a Sabbath-day, with the horn sounding before them. The presbytery of Edinburgh took up the case in great grief and concern, and called the two reverend brethren to give an explanation of their conduct, which fortu­nately they were able to do very satisfactorily. Arriving at Stilton on a Saturday night, and finding there was no accommodation for the next day but in a public-house, while there was no place where they could rightly join in worship nearer than Stamford—that is to say, no Presbyterian or dissenting meeting-house—they had been induced to start on their journey to the latter place next morning, when, as they were upon post-horses, it was a matter of course, and needful for safety, that they should have a boy going before to blow a horn. The presbytery was satisfied; but one strenuous brother, Mr James Webster, who was not distinguished by a charitable temper, or much moderation of words, broke out upon them on this score in his pulpit—not in a sermon, but in the course of his prayer—and was rebuked on this account by the presbytery.

1715, Feb
For many years after the Revolution, the sombre religious feelings of the community forbade even an attempt at the revival of theatrical performances. If there was anywhere an inclination to see Shakspeare, Otway, Congreve, or Addison, put into living forms on the stage, it was restricted to the same obscurity in the breast which entertained it, as devotion to the mass or doubts regarding witchcraft. The plays and other examples of light literature of the age of Anne did at length begin to find their way from London to Edinburgh, there to meet a not wholly congenial reception from at least that portion of society which professed Episcopacy, not to speak of a certain minority of the gay, who have usually contrived to exist even amidst the most gloomy puritanism. Time, moreover, was continually removing the stern men of the seventeenth century, to be replaced by others of gentler convictions. The natural love of amusement began to assert itself against the pride of asceticism and self-denial. Englishmen were constantly coming in as government officers, or in pursuit of business, and bringing with them new ideas. Thus it came to pass that, about the beginning of the Hanover dynasty, Scotland began to think that it might indulge now and then in a little merriment, and no great harm come of it. It must be owned, however, that during much of the eighteenth century, there was great truth in a simile employed in the preface to a play published in Edinburgh in 1668, which likened the drama in Scotland to ‘a swaggerer in a country church.’

The very first presentment of any public theatricals that can be authenticated, occurred in the early part of 1715, just before the breaking out of the unfortunate insurrection. We know little about it besides that a corps was then acting plays at the Tennis Court, near Holyrood Palace.

‘We have now,’ says a contemporary letter-writer, ‘got a play­house set up here in the Tennis Court, to the great grief of all sober good people; and I am surprised to see such diversions as tend so much to corrupt men’s manners patronised and counte­nanced by some of whom I expected better things…… Mr ‘Webster and several other ministers have given a testimony against them; and for so doing are mocked by a great many that yon would scarce suspect. Particularly, Mr Webster is very much cried out against for saying no more but that whoever in his parish did attend these plays should be refused tokens to the sacrament of the Supper.’

The presbytery of Edinburgh was alive to the danger of allowing stage-plays to be acted within their borders, and adverted to the Canongate theatricals in great concern on the 23d of March 1715. ‘Being informed,’ they said, ‘that some comedians have lately come to the bounds of this presbytcry, and do act within the precincts of the Abbey, to the great offence of many, by tres­passing upon morality and those rides of modesty and chastity which our holy rcligion obligeth all its professors to a strict observance of; therefore the presbytery recommends to all their members to use all proper and prudent methods to discourage the same.’ It is at the same time rather startling to find that three of the ministers who went as a deputation to pay the respects of the Church of Scotland to George I. on his accession in 1714— namely, Mitchell, Ramsay, and Hart—went at Kendal to see the comedy of Love/or Love acted.

Apr 22
A celebrated total eclipse of the sun, which happened about nine o’clock in the morning of this day, made a great impression in Scotland, as in other parts of Europe, over which the entire shadow passed. The darkness lasted upwards of three minutes, during which the usual phenomena were observed among the lower animals. The Edinburgh bard, Allan Ramsay, heralded the event with a set of verses, embracing all the commonplaces connected with it; adding,

‘The unlearned clowns, who don’t our era know,
From this dark Friday will their ages shew,
As I have often heard old country men
Talk of Dark Monday and their ages then!

Whiston, in his Memoirs, relates what will be to philosophical persons an amusing anecdote of this eclipse. When the accounts of it were published before-hand in the streets of London, telling when it would commence, and that it would be total, a Mohammedan envoy, from Tripoli, thought the English people were distracted in pretending to know what God Almighty would do; which his own countrymen could not do. ‘He concluded thus, that God Almighty would never reveal so great a secret to us unbelievers, when he did not reveal it to those whom he esteemed true believers. However, when the eclipse came exactly as we all foretold, he was asked again what he thought of the matter now; his answer was, that he supposed we knew this by art magique; otherwise he must have turned Christian upon such an extraordi­nary event as this was.’

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