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The Lairds of Glenlyon:  Historical Sketches
Chapter 7

THE first glance we have of Robert Campbell, as the soldier of King William, is obtained from the following letter, addressed "for the Laird of Glenlyon, one of the Captains of the Earle of Argyle's Regiment, present Commandant at Drunnolich, for their Maties. Servce."

Loving Coussine.—I receaved yours, and as to what my unkle says anent his Boats, you may wreitt too him and tell him, that I would follow his Inclinations in it; but I have a certain use for the Boats before wee open the campaigne, which I shall satisfie him of at metting. I shall need no Boats, but such as can goe the length of Inder-lochie. He knows I am lazie to wreitt, so will excuse my not wreitting too him. I desyre to have my battalion your lenth on Tuesday; you would contryve how my Regiment may be Quartered as near Drunnolich as possible, in Barns or otherwyse.—I am, you Loving Coussine,

* * * * Campbell. Inverary,
September 28th, 1690.

The name is unfortunately effaced, and I have no means of ascertaining who was the writer. Campbell spent the next two years with his regiment in Argyleshire, without being engaged in any particular service. His wife and family at home were struggling against the severest poverty. After their lands had been harried by the M'Donalds, it was impossible for them, for want of means, to re-stock them immediately. The meal obtained from Sir Patrick Murray to keep the wolf—hunger—from the door, when the term came, could not be paid. Letters of outlawry were issued against Campbell; but what could be done? "It was ill to tak his breeks off a Hielandman." Robert could not pay, and there should be an end of it; but necessity has no laws; another supply of meal must be procured or the family must starve. Lord Breadalbane owed Robert money, but at this, his hardest pinch, did not or could not pay him. I suspect the latter; for now that the family were too reduced to be feared, and their lands had passed into other hands, he favoured and supported them as a matter of policy. Robert's son-in-law, Alexander Campbell of Ardeonaig, paid Sir Patrick, and the necessary supply was obtained. To Ardeonaig was assigned the bond on Lord Breadalbane, the only realisable source of means in poor Glenlyon's possession. After carefully investigating the accumulating miseries entailed upon his family by the raids of the M'Donalds—the proofs of which I hold in my hands—I can almost understand the stern joy with which Glenlyon carried out the outrageous behests of his Sovereign, and slaughtered, without remorse, men who had treacherously violated the protection of their commander-in-chief, to plunder the lands of an inoffensive man.

The M'lans, as hardened and habitual robbers, according to the criminal code of that age, probably deserved, every one of them that was above twelve years of age, the punishment of the gallows. But at the Revolution, the executive was not strong enough to vindicate and protect the life and property of the subject, except through voluntary obedience, beyond the Highland barrier. The Campbells were the first to graft ideas of law and order upon the uncongenial stock of clanship. By consummate tact the celebrated Marquis of Argyle had, through the influence of religion, gradually habituated his followers to the new order of things. The Clan Campbell, retaining all their hereditary affection for their chief, and consolidating, by their implicit obedience, his immense power in the council of the State and even over the fate of Scotland, were the first to take upon them the feudal yoke, and from being companions and equals to sink into the vassals of M'Cailein More. In the strict administration of justice between man and man, in the absolute security of life and property, and in the vigorous and impartial rule of the Marquis, they reaped the full reward of what the other Highlanders called their mean-spiritedness. The change in Argyle was rather in the morals of the people than in their civil condition. The Marquis was a paragon of a landlord, and his immediate successors never extended their feudal rights to the matter of rent and cain, which were allowed to remain on the old clan footing. Nevertheless, the Marquis, by fostering the change in the morals and habits of thinking prevalent among the clans, did ipso facto, become the Corypheus of obedience to the law in the Highlands, and concomitantly also of the race of absolute landlords, who, through the agency of a single factor, could sweep a glen in one day of 100 stalwart warriors. In introducing changes we are generally alive only to the immediate benefits which they promise, and leave time to discover their shortcomings and positive evils. The country of the Campbells, through the changes brought about by the Marquis, exhibited a picture of peacefulness and civilisation, which formed a strong contrast to the rest of the Highlands. The strange appearance of the strongest of the clans settling disputes according to law, and yielding due obedience to the king's writ, arrested the attention of statesmen, and stimulated them to strong efforts to extend, through the same means, over the whole Highlands, the power of the executive. As the Campbells were at the head of the new party of progress, the M'Donalds stood forward pre-eminently as the champions of clanship. At the era of the Revolution, Coll of Keppoch and M'lan of Glencoe vindicated the right of waging private war, and of living by the systematic plunder of the sword as freely as any of their ancestors of the Isles had done hundreds of years before. The neighbouring clans had to keep watch and ward against the marauders, and the exercise of arms necessarily kept alive the spirit of warfare, and retarded the progress of civilisation among the Campbells themselves; for a government too weak to protect from violence, and allowing men to shift for themselves, necessarily breeds contempt amongst the best disposed; and, when its orders run counter to their wills, rouse them to opposition and rebellion. The King's garrison of Inverlochie bridled the more open country of Keppoch, but M'lan carried on, with as much impunity and openness as ever, the trade of cattle-lifting. Once in Glencoe it was impossible to recover the prey. Let any number of men be sent against them, his gillies guarded the narrow passes; at the preconcerted signal the cattle and people removed to the rocky fastnesses which a few men could hold against an army. The foe had nothing to wreak his vengeance upon but a few turf-built huts, as easily rebuilt as they were cast down. William and Dalrmyple set their seals to the doom of Glencoe, but not because M'Ian had failed in obtempering the letter of the law regarding the oath of allegiance—not because the M'lans were rebels—but because they were the last to adhere to the unmodified principles of clanship, to the idea of kingdoms within a- kingdom, of the right of a private man, or a section of private men, to exercise hatred, rapine, and war, uncontrolled by the central government;— because, though a puny tribe as to numbers, the physical character of their country made them able to keep thirty thousand men, from the dread of their excursions, with arms perpetually in their hands; because this thwarted the plans of progress represented by the Campbells, and cherished by the king, and subjected the revolutionary government to the laughter of scorn amidst a warlike and disaffected race, by showing its threatenings could be braved with impunity, and that it was not able to afford the safety to property and life, the promise of which formed the charter of its existence. If the odium caused by the treacherous slaughter of beguiled men was so great as for a time to endanger the safety of the throne, still it was the means of making the Highlanders perceive the necessity of yielding obedience to the law, and it put an effectual stop to cattle-lifting on a grand scale. M'lan of Glencoe was the last Katheran chief. The terrors of the law prevailed over the love of plunder, and shortly the thing, formerly considered a mark of bravery, sank into the catalogue of mean and disreputable sins. The talents of Rob Roy, the last Katheran, failed to make the profession what it was in the days of Keppoch; and when Rob died there was no one to take up his mantle, for cattle-lifting had degenerated into common thieving. It cannot be said, therefore, the massacre of Glencoe failed in the results expected by Government. Dalrymple might plausibly enough justify to himself the horrible cruelty of the means, by the importance of the results to the well-being of society, ten times better after the massacre than before its commission. But there was one man engaged in the affair—who, though concealed, was chief actor—that had every reason to be displeased with the result, and that was Breadalbane. He had made himself extremely active on the side of William at the conclusion of the war in 1691. The King placed .£15,000 at his disposal to bring the Jacobite chiefs to reason. He held a meeting of them at Achalader, in the Braes of Glenorchy, on the 30th June, 1691. M'lan attended this meeting, and quarrelled with the Earl about the reparation which the latter demanded from him, for having plundered his lands. M'lan denounced the treacherous character of the Earl to the other chiefs, and was the principal cause of making the negotiations come to nothing. Further, he threatened to expose his conduct to Government, and show, that, though he was Willie's man in Edinburgh, he was Jamie's in the Highlands. The charge was well founded enough, as subsequent events show, though Breadalbane sheltered himself for the time under the permission of the King authorising him to act this double part. In addition to the new insult, the more intolerable to the Earl because he felt it was merited, the M'lans had been, with the other M'Donald's, harrying Breadalbane when the battle of Stronclachan was fought, in which the Earl lost eighteen of his nearest kinsmen. Besides, the position of Glencoe rendered the M'lans a perpetual thorn in his side. If he hoped for success in the complicated intrigues in which he was about to engage, for bringing about another revolution, and making himself what he always aspired to be, the head of the Campbells and the chief man in the North, he saw it more necessary than ever to get rid of the M'lans. The "mauling scheme" of the Earl, to which Dalrymple alludes, without describing it, must have been the one at last substantially adopted. The time, the manner, and the agents could have been chosen only by a man intimately acquainted with Glencoe, and the nature and habits of its people, and also aware of the mortal hatred existing between the M'lans and Campbell of Glenlyon—a man determined, moreover, that the "old fox, nor any of his cubs, should not escape"—and such a man in every particular was Breadalbane. Instead of 200, the whole male population of the Glen, but between 30 and 40 were killed. The old intriguer foresaw the storm which would arise, and dreaded it, if many of the witnesses lived. A few days after the massacre, a person waited upon Glencoe's sons, and stated, he had been sent by Campbell of Barracalden, the Earl's Chamberlain, and that he was authorised to say, that, if they would declare, under their hands, that Breadalbane had no concern in the slaughter, he would procure their remission and restitution. He escaped adroitly enough through the after proceedings, as he managed that Campbell of Glenlyon should never stand his trial. But under what mortal fear must he have made the promise of "remission and restitution" with his revenge but half-gratified, and the possession of Glencoe, which he longed to acquire, slipping for ever from his grasp? As to Glenlyon, his own contemporaries accused him not of his cruelty in the execution of inhuman orders, but of the few hours of treachery which preceded the massacre—

"For he smiled as a friend, while he planned as a foe
To redden each hearthstone in misty Glencoe."

The Glencoe bard himself does not go farther, as if conscious that had he not violated his plighted word, and murdered men under trust, Campbell bad received such pro vocation from the M'Donalds as justified the most unlimited revenge on his part.

The Scottish Parliament met in 1695, when King William found it expedient to yield to public indignation, and a commission to examine into the affair was granted upon the 29th of April. A few days after, Captain Campbell received orders to join his regiment in Flanders. Bread-albane obtained the necessary funds—400 merks—for his outfit, from Mr. Alexander Comrie, minister of Inchadin. The other officers engaged in the massacre were already in Flanders. Campbell's evidence appears to have been peculiarly dreaded by the Earl, and had he been examined perhaps history would not be now so hard on the character of Dalrymple, and at any rate the intrigues of Breadalbane, if revealed, would have astonished William himself, and shown him that even he could be outwitted. From the anxiety of the Commissioners to screen William, their labours ended in smoke, and the M'Donalds and the country had not the revenge they wanted. The recommendation of the Parliament to order home Campbell of Glenlyon, Captain Drummond, Lieutenant Lindsay (a relation of Glenlyon's wife), Ensign Lundy, and Sergeant Barber, the chief actors, in order to their being prosecuted according to law, was never carried into effect. Campbell probably was never made aware of the result of the Commission. He died at Bruges in West Flanders, on the 2nd day of August, 1696. I subjoin an extract from the paymaster's accounts in which his funeral expenses are given.

Campbell of Glenlyon was, at his death, in the sixty-fifth year of his age. His early education had been good. He was a man of polished and plausible manners, and had mixed in early life in the best society. Like other men who have left a name joined to cruel deeds, his personal appearance was extremely prepossessing. Tall, well-built, with a profusion of curling fair hair, and a face of almost feminine delicacy, he was in youth a very Adonis. Left a minor with a large but burdened property, and shut out from active pursuits by the stern rule of Cromwell, he early gave the rein to selfish pleasures, a course in which he was confirmed by the gaieties which followed the Restoration. His greatest vices were gambling and the love of display, to which in later days he added an excessive love of wine. In another age he might have been a great warrior chief; for, though devoid of chivalrous generosity, he had all the martial talents of his warlike family; and the man who could resolve at sixty to repair his fortune by the sword, could be reasonably expected to have been able to achieve his purpose thirty years earlier.

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