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The Massacre at Glencoe - Part Two

Glencoe left Fort William immediately, and so great was his anxiety to reach Inverary with as little delay as possible, that although his way lay through mountains almost impassable, and although the country was deeply covered with snow, he proceeded on his journey without even stopping to see his family, though he passed within a half a mile of his won house. On arriving at Inverary, Sir Colin Campbell was absent, and he had to wait three days till his return, Sir Colin having been prevented from reaching Inverary sooner, on account of the badness of the weather. As the time allowed by the proclamation for taking the oaths had expired, Sir Colin declined at first to swear Glencoe, alleging that it would be of no use to take the oaths; but Glencoe having first importuned him with tears to receive from him the oath of allegiance, and having thereafter threatened to protest against the sheriff should he refuse to act, Sir Colin yielded, and administered the oaths to Glencoe and his attendants on the 6th. of January. Glencoe, thereupon, returned home in perfect reliance that having done his utmost to comply with the injunction of the government, he was free from danger.

Shortly after this, Campbell transmitted to Colin Campbell, sheriff-clerk of Argyle, who was then in Edinburgh, the certificate of Glencoe's oath on the same paper with other certificates, sending at the same time the letter which he had received from Hill. Campbell showed this paper with Hill's letter to several privy councillors, among whom was the Earl of Stair, all of whom were of the opinion that the certificate could not be received without a warrant from the king. Instead, however, of laying the matter before the privy council, or informing Glencoe of the rejection of the certificate, that he might petition the king, Campbell gave in the paper to the clerks of the council with Glencoe's certificate "delete and obliterate."

Whether this was done at the instigation of Secretary Dalrymple, it is impossible to say; but it is not improbable that this man - who, a few weeks before, had exulted that as the winter was the only season in which the Highlanders could not escape. they could easily be destroyed "in the cold long nights" - was not an indifferent spectator to Campbell's proceedings. In fact, it appears that the secretary contemplated the total extirpation of the clans, for, in a letter to Sir Thomas Livingstone, commander of the forces in Scotland, dated January 7th., he says, "You know in general that these troops posted at Inverness and Inverlochie, will be ordered to take in the house of Innergarie, and to destroy entirely the country of Lochaber, Lochiel's lands, Keppoch's, Glengarie's and Glencoe," and he adds, "I assure you your power shall be full enough, and I hope the soldiers will not trouble the government with prisoners." The Macdonalds were chiefly marked out by him for destruction, and after saying, in a letter of the 9th., that he could have wished that they "had not divided' on the question of taking the oath of indemnity, he expresses his regret to find that Keppoch and Glencoe were safe. When he heard two days after from Argyle, that Glencoe had not managed to take the oaths within the time prescribed, he expressed a joy which might be called fiendish, and set himself busily to take proper advantage of the opportunity." Delenda est Carthago.

That no time be lost in enforcing the penalties in the proclamation, now that the time allowed for taking the oath of allegiance had expired, instructions of rather an equivocal nature, signed and countersigned by the king on the 11th of January, were sent down by young Stair to Sir Thomas Livingstone, enclosed in a letter from the secretary of same date. By the instructions, Livingston was ordered "to march the troops against the rebels who had not taken the benefit of the indemnity, and to destroy them by fire and sword;" but lest such a course might render them desperate, he was allowed to "give terms and quarters, but in this manner only, that chieftains and heritors, or leaders, be prisoners of war, their lives only safe, and all other things in mercy, they taking the oath of allegiance, and rendering their arms, and submitting to the government, are to have quarters, and indemnity for their lives and fortunes, and to be protected from the soldiers." As a hint to Livingston how to act under the discretionary power with which these instructions vested him, Dalrymple says in his letter containing them, "I have no great kindness to Keppoch nor Glencoe, and it is well that people are in mercy, and then just now my Lord Argyle tells me that Glencoe hath not taken the oath, at which I rejoice. It is a great work of charity to be exact in rooting out that damnable sect, the worst of the Highlands."

The purport of this letter could not be understood; but lest Livingston might not feel disposed to imbrue his hands in the blood of Glencoe and his people, additional instructions bearing the date (in Stair's handwriting) of January 16th, and also signed and countersigned by King William, were dispatched to Livingston by the Master of Stair, ordering him to extirpate the whole clan. In the letter containing these instructions, Dalrymple informs Livingston that "the king does not at all incline to receive any after the diet but in mercy," but he artfully adds, "but for a just example of vengeance, I entreat the thieving tribe of Glencoe may be rooted out to purpose." Lest, however, Livingston might hesitate, a duplicate of these additional instructions was sent at the same time by Secretary Dalrymple to Colonel Hill, the governor of Fort William, with the letter of an import similar to that sent to Livingston. From the following extract it would appear that not only the Earl of Breadalbane, but also the Earl of Argyle, was privy to this infamous transaction. "The Earls of Argyle and Breadalbane have promised that they (the Macdonalds of Glencoe) shall have no retreat in their bounds, the passes to Rannoch would be secured, and the hazard certified to the land of Weems to reset them; in that case Argyle's detachment with a party that may be posted in Island Stalker must cut them off."

Preparatory to putting the butchering warrant in execution, a party of Argyle's regiment, to the number of 120 men, under the command of Captain Campbell of Glenlyon, was ordered to proceed to Glencoe, and take up their quarters there, about the end of January or beginning of February. On approaching the Glen, they were met by John Macdonald, the elder son of the chief, at the head of about 20 men, who demanded from Campbell the reason of his coming into a peaceful country with a military force; Glenlyon and two subalterns who were with him explained that they came as friends, and that their sole object was to obtain suitable quarters, where they could conveniently collect the arrears of cess and hearth-money, - a new tax laid on by the Scottish parliament in 1690, - in proof of which, Lieutenant Lindsay produced the instructions of Colonel Hill to that effect. They thereupon received a hearty welcome, and were hospitably entertained by Glencoe and his people till the fatal morning of the massacre. Indeed, so familiar was Glenlyon, that scarcely a day passes that he did not visit the house of Alexander Macdonald, the younger son of the chief, who was married to Glenlyon's niece, the sister of Rob Roy, and take his "morning drink", agreeably to the most approved practice of Highland hospitality.

If Secretary Dalrymple imagined that Livingston was disinclined to follow his instructions he was mistaken, for immediately on receipt of them he wrote Lieutenant-colonel Hamilton, who had been fixed upon by the secretary to be the executioner, expressing his satisfaction that Glencoe had not taken the oath within the period prescribed, and urging him, if he wished to approved himself to the government, to execute his commission with the utmost rigour, and "not to trouble the government with prisoners." In the meantime, the Master of Stair was taking every precaution that the deed should be done suddenly and effectively, and accordingly, on the 13th of January he wrote two letters, one to Livingston, and the other to Hill, urging them on. Addressing the former, he says, "I am glad Glencoe did not come in within the time prefixed; I hope what is done there may be in earnest, since the rest are not in a condition to draw together help. I think to harry (plunder) their cattle and burn their houses is but to render them desperate lawless men to rob their neighbours, but I believe you will be satisfied, it were a great advantage to the nation that thieving tribe were rooted out and cut off; it must be quietly done, otherwise they will make a shift for both their men and their cattle." And in his letter to Hill he says, "Pray, when the thing concerning Glencoe is resolved, let it be secret and sudden, otherwise the men will shift you, and better not meddle with them than not to do it to purpose, to cut off that nest of robbers who have fallen in the mercy of the law, now when there is force and opportunity, whereby the king's justice will be as conspicuous and useful as his clemency to others. I apprehend the storm is so great that for some time you can do little, but so soon as possible I know you will be at work, for these false people will do nothing, but as they see you in a condition to do with them."

In pursuance of these fresh instructions from the secretary, Hill, on the 12th of February, sent orders to Hamilton, forthwith to execute the fatal commission. Accordingly, on the same day, Hamilton directed Major Robert Duncanson of Argyle's regiment to proceed immediately with a detachment of that regiment to Glencoe, so as to reach the post which had been assigned him by five o'clock the following morning, at which hour Hamilton promised to reach another post with a party of Hill's regiment. Whether Duncanson, who appears to have been a Campbell, was averse to take an active personal part in the bloody tragedy about to be enacted, is a question that cannot now be solved; but it may have been from some repugnance to act in person that immediately on receipt of Hamilton's order, he despatched another order from himself to Captain Campbell of Glenlyon, then living in Glencoe, with instructions to fall upon the Macdonalds precisely at five o'clock the following morning, and put all to the sword under seventy years of age.

Glenlyon appears to have been a man equal to any kind of loathsome work, especially against a Macdonald; one who

"Could smile, and murder while he smiled."

With this sanguinary order in his pocket, and with his mind made up unhesitatingly and rigorously to execute it, he did not hesitate to spend the evening of the massacre playing at cards with John and Alexander Macdonald, the sons of the chief, to wish them good night at parting, and to accept an invitation from Glencoe himself to dine with him the following day. Little suspecting the intended butchery, Glencoe and his sons retired to rest at their usual hour; but early in the morning, while the preparations for the intended massacre were going on, John Macdonald, the elder son of the chief, hearing the sound of voices about his house, grew alarmed, and jumping out of bed threw on his clothes and went to Inverriggen, where Glenlyon was quartered, to ascertain the cause of the unusual bustle which had interrupted his nocturnal slumbers. To his great surprise he found the soldiers all in motion, as if preparing for some enterprise, which induced him to inquire at Captain Campbell the object of these extraordinary preparations at such an early hour. The anxiety with which young Macdonald pressed his question, indication a secret distrust on his part, Campbell endeavoured by professions of friendship to lull his suspicions, and pretended that his sole design was to march against some of Glengarry's men. As John Macdonald, the younger son of Glencoe, was married to Glenlyon's niece, that crafty knave referred to his connexion with the family of Glencoe, and put it to the young man, whether, if he intended anything hostile to the clan, he would not have provided for the safety of his niece and her husband. Macdonald, apparently satisfied with this explanation, returned home and retired again to rest, but he had not been long in bed when his servant, who, apprehensive of the real intentions of Glenlyon and his party, had prevented Macdonald from sleeping, informed him of the approach of a party of men towards the house. Jumping immediately out of bed he ran to the door, and perceiving a body of about 20 soldiers with muskets and fixed bayonets coming in the direction of his house, he fled to a hill in the neighbourhood, where he was joined by his brother Alexander, who had escaped from the scene of carnage, after being wakened from sleep by his servant.

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