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Memoirs of the Jacobites

The History of the Jacobites properly begins with the brave and conscientious men who followed James the Second to France, or fought and bled for him in the United Kingdom. Of the few nobles whom that Monarch had distinguished by his friendship when Duke of York, or graced with his favours when King, three only in Scotland remained attached openly to his interests: these were the Duke of Gordon, the Lord Balcarras, and Claverhouse of Dundee, who may be regarded as the parents of the Jacobite party in Scotland. "The other nobles of the late King's party," remarks a great historian, [Dalrimple] "waited for events, in hopes and in fears, from the Old Government and the New, intriguing with both, and depended upon by neither."

Upon the death of Dundee, a troop of officers who hail fought under the standard of that great General, and who had imbibed his lofty opinions and learned to imitate his dauntless valour, capitulated, and were suffered to leave the country and retire to France. Their number amounted to a hundred and fifty: they were all of honourable birth, and glorying in their political principles. At first these exiles were, pensioned by the French Government, but, upon the close of the civil war, those pensions ceased. Finding themselves a burden upon King James, they formed themselves into a body-guard, which was afterwards incorporated with the French army. It may fairly be presumed that this remnant of Dundee's army, four of whom only returned to Scotland, were instrumental during their abode in France in maintaining a communication between the Court of St. Germains and their disheartened countrymen who had remained in their Highland homes. Abroad, they supported their military character as soldiers who had fought under Dundee: They were always the foremost in the battle and the last to retreat, and were, distinguished by a superiority in order and discipline, no less than by their energy and courage.

There can be no doubt but that the majority of the great landholders in England, as well as the Highland chiefs, continued, through the reign of William and Mary, disposed to high Tory views; and that had not the popular cry of the Church being in danger aided the designs of the Whigs, the Highilyers, or rigid Tories, would not have remained in quiescence during that critical period, which resembled the settling of a rushing current of waters into a frothing and bubbling pool, rather than the calm tenour of a gently-flowing stream. Throughout the distractions of his reign, it was the wise policy of William the Third to balance parties; to bestow great posts upon moderate men; to employ alternately persons of different opinions, and by frequent changes in his Ministry, to conciliate the good-will of both factions;—and this was all that that able Monarch could effect, until time should extinguish political animosity.

Queen Mary, educated in Tory principles, and taught by her maternal uncle, the Earl of Rochester, to consider every opposition to the Sovereign's will as rebellion, was scarcely regarded in the light of an enemy to the doctrine of passive obedience and non-resistance, notwithstanding her unfifiul conduct; and it is remarkable that, during her life, great favour was shown at Court to the Highland partisans of James the Second; distinctions were as much avoided as it was possible; and the personal prepossessions of the Queen were supposed to be on the side of the High Church Tories.

During the reign of Anne, notwithstanding the coalition of Godolphin, Marlborough, and other leaders of the moderate. Tories with the Whigs, and the reputation and glory which their combined abilities and characters obtained, a conviction was still prevalent that the heart of the Queen was disposed to the restoration of the ancient race, and that her days would not close before a design to secure the succession to her nephew would be matured, and the Act of Succession, which was chiefly the offspring of Whig policy, should be set aside. There was, doubtless, not only in the mind of Anne, but in that of her sagacious predecessor, an apprehension that after the death of the last of their dynasty, the succession would again be fiercely disputed. Impressed with this conviction, it was a favourite scheme of William to invite the child, who afterwards, under the name of the Chevalier St. George, was the hero, in dumb show, it must be acknowledged, of the Insurrection of 1715, to receive his education in England under his kingly care; to be bred up a Protestant; and to make that education the earnest of his future succession. The proposal was rejected by James the Second, to the great prejudice of his son's interests, and to the misfortune, it may be presumed, of the British nation. For one can scarcely suppose a more perfect combination of all the qualities calculated to form a popular Monarch, in this country, than the natural abilities of the Stuart race, perfected under the able, guidance of so reflective a ruler—so accomplished a general—so consummate a statesman, as William. The education which that Monarch had planned for the young Duke of Gloucester shows how enlarged and practical were his views of the acquirements necessary for a Sovereign: it presents a scheme of tuition which, if it may be deemed not wholly adapted to the present day, was on the most comprehensive and liberal scale. But James, acting, at all events, with the consistency of a sincere believer, returned, as Dalrymple expresses it, "slowly and sadly to bury the remembrance of his greatness in the convent of La Trappe;" and all future attempts on the part of his posterity to recover the throne of their ancestors were frustrated by the hollowness of French professions of friendship.

The tranquil demeanour of the Jacobite party during the reign of Anne may seem surprising, when we consider the avowed favour and protection which were held out by Louis the Fourteenth to the royal exiles of St. Germain. During the lifetime of James, who considered that he had exchanged the hope of an earthly for that of a heavenly Crown, there was little to wonder at in this inactivity and apparent resignation. Had it not been for the influence of an enthusiastic, high-minded, and fascinating woman, the very mention of the cause would probably have died away in the priest-thronged saloons of St. Germains. To Mary of Modena the credit is due—if credit on such account is to be assigned—for maintaining in the friends of her consort, for instilling in the breast of her son, a desire of restoration;—that word, in fact, might be found, to speak metaphorically, written in her heart. To her personal qualities, to her still youthful attractions, to her pure mind, and blameless career of coirugal duty—to the noble, maternal ambition which no worthy judge of human motives could refuse a tribute of pity and admiration—to her disregard of low and unworthy instruments to advance her means, as in the case of Lovat, even the warmest partisans of the Revolution were forced to do justice. The disinterested and sagacious Godolphin is said to have done more: He is supposed to have cherished such a respectful enthusiasm for the young mother who thus supported the claims of her son, as might have become the chivalric Surrey. Whatever were the facts during the existence of Anne, the payment of a dowry to Mary of Modena, the favourable understanding between her son, as he grew up to man's estate, and the English Court, the small reward offered for his apprehension, the conniving at the daily enlistment of men in his service, and the indulgence shown to those who openly spoke and preached against the Revolution, were certain indications and ample proofs that had the Queen's life been prolonged, some effectual steps would have been taken to efface from her memory the recollection of her early failure of duty to King James, and to satisfy the reproaches of her narrow, though conscientious mind. That such was the fact, the declaration or manifesto of the Chevalier, dated from Plombieres, August 2, 1714, and printed in French, English, and Latin, attests; and the assertion was confirmed by a letter from the Duke of Lorrain to the English Government. This favourable disposition on the part of Anne proves that she gave no credence to the report of the supposititious birth of the Prince; although, in her youthful days, and when irritated against her step-mother, she had entered into the Court gossip on that subject, with all the eagerness of a weak and credulous mind.

Nourished in secret by these hopes, the Jacobites in England constituted a far more important party than our historians are generally willing to allow. The famous work entitled, " English Advice to the Freeholders of Great Britain," supposed to be written by Bishop Atterbury, was extensively circulated throughout the country: It tended to promote an opposition cry of "the Church in danger!" by insinuating that the Whigs projected the abolition of Episcopacy. It was received with great enthusiasm; and was responded to with fervour by the University of Oxford, which was inflamed with a zeal for the restoration of the Stuarts; and which displayed much of the same ardour, and held forth the same arguments that had stimulated that seat of learning in the days of Charles the First. To these sentiments, the foreign birth, the foreign language, and, above all, the foreign principles of the King added considerable disgust: nor can it be a matter of surprise that such should be the case. It appears, nevertheless, extraordinary that the opposition to so strange an engrafting of a foreign ruler should not have been received with greater public manifestations of dislike than the unorganized turbulence of Oxford under-graduates, or the ephemeral fury of a London populace.

In Scotland a very different state of public feeling prevailed. In England men of commerce were swayed in their political opinions by the good of trade, which nothing was so likely to injure as a disputed succession. The country gentlemen were, more or less, under the influence of party pamphlets, and were liable to have their political prejudices smoothed down by collision with their neighbours. Excepting in the northern counties, the dread of Popery prevailed also universally. The remembrance of the bigotry and tyranny of James the Second had not faded away from the remembrance of those whose fathers or grandfathers could remember its details. In the Highlands of Scotland the memory of that Monarch was, on the other hand, worshipped as a friend of that noble country, as the Stuart peculiarly their own; as the royal exile, whose health and return, under various disguises, they had pledged annually at their hunting-matches, and to whose youthful son they transferred an allegiance, which they held sacred as their religion.

Nor had James the Second earned the devotion of the Highland chieftains without some degree of merit on his own part. The most incapable and unworthy of rulers, he had yet some fine and popular qualities as a man; he was not devoid of a considerable share of ability although it was misapplied. His letters to his son, his account of his own Life, show that one who could act most erroneously and criminally, did, nevertheless, often think and feel rightly. Ilis obstinate. adherence to his own faith may be lamented by politicians; it may be sneered at by the worldly; but it must be approved by all who are themselves staunch supporters of that mode of faith which they conscientiously adopt. In private society James had the power of attaching his dependents; and perhaps from a deeper source than that which gave attraction to the conversation of his good-natured, dissolute brother. His melancholy and touching reply to Sir Charles Littleton, who expressed to him his shame that his son was with the Prince of Orange:— "Alas! Sir Charles! why ashamed? Are not my daughters with him?" was an instance of that readiness and delicacy which are qualities peculiarly appropriate to royalty. His exclamation at the battle of La Hogue, when he beheld the English sailors scrambling up the sides of the French ships from their boats—"None but my brave English could do this!" was one trait of a character neither devoid of sensibility, nor destitute of certain emotions which appear incompatible with the royal patron of Judge Jeffries, and with the enemy of Monmouth.

During his residence, when Duke of York, at Holyrood, accompanied by Anne Hyde, when Duchess of York, James became extremely popular in Edinburgh and in the Highlands his hold of the affections of the chieftains had a deeper origin. The oppressor of the English had endeavoured to become the emancipator of the chieftains. The rigour of the feudal system, which was carried to its utmost extent in the Highlands, although softened by the patriarchal character of the chiefs, was revolting to the chieftains or landholders under the yoke of some feudal nobleman or chief; and they became ambitious of becoming direct holders from the Crown. It was a scheme of James the Second to abolish this system of infeudation, by buying up the superiorities,—a plan, the completion of which was attempted by William the Third, but defeated by the avarice and dishonesty of those who managed the transaction. The chieftains, however, never forgot the obligation which they owed to James and they refused all offers of emolument or promotion from his successor; and they adhered to the exiled King with a loyalty which was never shaken, and which broke forth conspicuously in the Insurrection of 1715. "The Highlanders," says Dalrymple, "carried in their bosoms the high point of honour without its follies."

"Without entering into the various reasons which strengthened this sentiment of gratitude and allegiance; without commenting upon the partly patriarchal nature of the clan system, and the firm compact which was cemented between every member of that family by a common relationship of blood; it is sufficient to remark, that to a people so retired, in many parts insulated, in all apart from daily intelligence, far away from communication with any whose free disquisitions might possibly stake their opinions, it was not surprising that the loyalty to James should continue unalloyed during two successive reigns. It burned, indeed, with a steady though covered flame. The Insurrection of 1715, which seems, in the pages of history, to break forth unexpectedly, was long in being organized. From Anne's first Session of Parliament until the completion of the Union, Scotland was in a state of ferment, and violent party divisions racked civil society. In 1707, the famous Colonel Hooke was sent to the northern parts of Scotland from France, to sound the nobility and chieftains with respect to their sentiments, to ascertain the amount of their forces, and to inquire what quantity of ammunition and other warlike stores should be necessary to be sent from France. A full account of affairs was compiled, and was signed by fifteen noblemen and gentlemen, amongst whom the Duke of Athole, who aspired, according to Lockhart, to be another General Monk, was foremost in promoting the restoration of the youthful son of James the Second. This mission was followed by the unsuccessful attempt at invasion on the part of James, in 1708; when, according to some representations, there was a far more reasonable prospect of success than at any later period. The nobility and gentry were, at that time, well prepared to receive the royal adventurer; the regular army was wholly unfit, either in numbers or ammunition, to oppose the forces which they would have raised. The very Guards, it is supposed, would have done duty on the person of James Stuart the night that he landed. The equivalent money sent to Scotland to reward the promoters of the Union, was still in the country, and a considerable part of it was in the Castle of Edinburgh; and a Dutch fleet had recently run aground on the coast of Angus, and had left there a vast quantity of powder, shot, and cannon, and a large sum of money, which might have been secured. England was, at this time, distracted with jealousies and factions; and although the great Marlborough was then in the vigour of his youth, ready to defend his country, as well as to extend her dominions, there were suspicions that the General was not wholly, adverse to the claims of James Stuart.

How far these expectations might have been realised, it is difficult to say. The French newspapers had proclaimed the preparations for invasion, and Louis the Fourteenth had taken leave of James, wishing him a prosperous voyage, and expressing, as the highest compliment, "the hope that he should never see him again," when a slight, accidental indisposition disturbed the whole arrangement. The royal youth was taken ill wi+t the measles; upon which the French troops which had embarked at Dunkirk disembarked. A fatal delay was occasioned; and the French fleet, after an ineffectual voyage, went "sneakingly home," "doing," as one of the most active Jacobites remarks, "much harm to the King, his country, and themselves."

Such was the fate of the attempt, in 1708, to place James Stuart on the throne of his ancestors; and it will readily be believed that the ill-starred endeavour did not add to the probable success of any future enterprise. Scarcely had the accession of George the First, an event which a certain historian denominates "a surprising turn of Providence," taken place, than the removal of Lord Bolingbroke from office announced to the Tory party that they had lost their best friend at Court. Upon this intelligence reaching the Highlands, many of the Jacobites took up arms; but this hasty demonstration of goodwill to their cause was instantly suppressed. The Chevalier was, nevertheless, proclaimed King in the night time, and three noblemen, the Duke of Gordon, the Marquis of Huntley, and Lord Drummond, were kept prisoners in their own houses. In the middle of November, the Chevalier's Declaration, asserting his right and title to the Crown of England, was sent by a French null to many persons of rank in this country. For some months the country was in a state of ferment, such as, perhaps, had never been witnessed since the days of the Great Rebellion. The Jacobites were centered in Oxford, but Bristol was also another of their strongholds; the course of justice was impeded there by riots; and every effort was made, both there and elsewhere, to influence the elections, which were carried on with a degree of venom and fury, exasperated by the cry of "the Church in danger!"

In February, 1715, the Duke of Argyle, Commander-in-Chief of his Majesty's forces in Scotland, received information that a vessel containing arms and ammunition had landed in the Isle of Skye, and that the strangers had disembarked there, and had instantly dispersed themselves throughout the country. This was the first positive indication of the combination, which already comprised most of the ancient and respected names in Scotland. This confederacy, as it may be called, had existed ever since the peace of Utrecht, under the form of the Jacobite Association. In 1710, the formation of the October Club had shewed plainly the bias of the country gentlemen, who, according to a judge of men's motives who was rarely satisfied, "l did adhere firmly to their principles and engagements, acting the part of honest countrymen and dutiful subjects."

About the month of May, the report of James Stuart's intended invasion of Scotland, and particulars of the preparations made for it in England, Scotland, and France, became public. Measures were, of course, instantly taken to guard the coasts of England and Scotland, and to augment land forces. The Habeas Corpus Act was suspended in England, and in Scotland. An Act, passed in 1701, for preventing wrong imprisonments, and against undue delay in trials, was also suspended from the. twenty-third of July, 1715, until the twenty-fourth of the ensuing January. A fleet, under the command of Sir George Byng, was ordered to cruise in the Downs; and the most active and vigilant measures were taken in order to put the nation into a position of defence. The former intended invasion of 1708 was not forgotten, and it acted like a warning voice to the English Ministry. A Whig Association was trained among persons of rank and influences and in Edinburgh a body of volunteers was formed, who might daily be seen exercising in the Great Hall of the College.

Meantime the Jacobites were increasing in strength. During the last six years collections had been made in the continental nations, purporting to be for a "gentleman in distress," and the amount was said to have exceeded twelve millions. Of this sum, one hundred thousand pounds was entrusted to the Earl of Mar.

The whole scheme of the insurrection was matured, and the Chevalier had been proclaimed King in different towns in Scotland, when the death of Louis the Fourteenth cast such a damp over the spirit! of the party, that there ensued a consultation as to the expediency of their separating and returning to their homes. In this emergency, unhappily for the brave and ardent men whom he had assembled at Braemar, the influence of the Earl of Mar, and the arguments which his sanguine spirit suggested, prevailed; and the assembled chiefs parted, only to meet again at their appointed places of rendezvous.

The scheme of the Insurrection of 1715 embraced three different movements. In the north, the Earl of Mar was to possess himself of ail the rich coasts of Fife, and also to maintain, in the name of James the Third, the northern counties, which, with few exceptions, were soon under the control of the insurgents. An attempt was made, upon the southern parts of Scotland, by sending Brigadier Mackintosh, with a strong detachment of men, to cross the Firth of Forth, and to land in the Lothians, there expecting to be joined by friends on the borders and from England. In the west, a rising of the south-country Scots, under the command of Lord Kenmure, was projected; whilst in Northumberland the English Jacobites, headed by Mr. Forster, with a commission of General from Lord Mar, and aided by the Earl of Derwentwater, was to give the signal and incentive to the adherents of James in the sister Kingdom, as well as to co-operate with the Scottish forces under the commands of Brigadier Mackintosh and Viscount Kenmure. An attack upon Edinburgh was also concerted.

Such is the. outline of a plan of an insurrection to the effect of which the Earl of Mar declared the Jacobites had been looking for six and twenty years, how immature it was in its conception—how deficient in energy and union was its execution—how-unworthy was its chief instrument— how fatal to the good and great were its results—and, by a singular fortune, how those who least merited their safety escaped, whilst the gallant and honest champions of the cause suffered, will be fully detailed in the following pages. Let it be remembered that the task of compiling these Memoirs has been undertaken with no party spirit, nor with any wish to detract from the deep obligations which we owe to those who preserved us from inroads on our constitution, and oppression in our religious opinions. It has been, however, begun with a sincere wish to do justice to the disinterested and the good; and, as the task has proceeded, and increased information on the subject has been gained, it has been continued with a conviction that, whatever may be the nature or merits of the abstract principles on which it was undertaken, the Insurrection of 1715 forms an episode in the history of our country as creditable to many of the ill-fated actors in its tragic scenes, as any that have been detailed in the pages of that history.

October 28, 1845.

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