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Significant Scots
John Hamilton

HAMILTON, JOHN, a secular priest, made himself remarkable in the 16th century by his furious zeal in behalf of the church of Rome; leaving all the Scottish ecclesiastics of that period far behind by the boldness and energy with which he defended the tenets of the Romish church, and assailed those of the reformed religion. There is nothing known of the earlier part of his life, but there is some ground for believing that his violence and activity rendered him obnoxious to the Scottish government, and that he was in consequence compelled to leave the kingdom. Whatever may have been the cause of his departure from Scotland, he established himself at Paris in the year 1573. Here he applied to the study of theology, and with such success, that he was soon afterwards appointed professor of philosophy in the royal college of Navarre.

In 1576, he became tutor to the cardinal de Bourbon, and in 1578, to Francis de Jayeuse, afterwards promoted to a similar dignity. Besides these there were many other young persons of quality entrusted to him in consequence of the high opinion entertained of his talents and learning. In 1581, still burning with zeal, he published a work entitled "Ane Catholick and Facile Traictaise drawin out of the halie Scriptures, treulie exponit be the ancient doctrines to confirm the reall and corporell praesence of Christis pretious bodie and blude in the Sacrament of the altar." This work he dedicated to "His soverane Marie, the Quenis Majestie of Scotland." To this book were appended twenty-four Orthodox and Catholic Conclusions, dedicated to James VI., whom, by the aid of some reasoning of his own, he termed king of Scotland. These "Conclusions" he prefaced with equal prolixity as the work itself, but more characteristically - "testimonies for antiquitie of religion and succession of pastors in the catholick kirk, and certane questionis to the quhilkis we desire the ministers mak resolute answer at their next generall assemblie, and send the same imprentit to us with diligence, utherwise we protest that their pretendit religion is altogidder antichristian and repugnant to God and his balie kirk." What fortune attended this bold challenge does not appear, but his own in the meantime, was steadily advancing. In 1584, he was chosen rector of the university of Paris, and in 1585, while yet a licentiate in theology, he was elected to the cure of St Cosmus and Damian by that part of the students of the university of Paris called the German nation. His election on this occasion was disputed, but finally confirmed by a decree of parliament.

Still amongst the foremost and most violent in all religious discords, Hamilton became a furious zealot for the Catholic League of 1566, which it is well known had for its object the extermination of protestants, without regard to the means, and figured during that celebrated era under the title of Curť de S. Cosine. In the same spirit he again distinguished himself when Henry IV. of France besieged Paris in the year 1590.

On that occasion he mustered the Parisian ecclesiastics, drew them up in battle array, and led them on against the forces of the heretics under Henry, making them halt occasionally to sing hymns as they advanced. As the king of France was compelled to abandon the blockade of Paris before he finally carried the city, by the duke of Parma, who, despatched by Philip, king of Spain, now arrived with an army to assist the leaguers who defended it, Hamilton not only escaped the fate which would certainly have awaited him, had Henry succeeded in the siege, but became more active and turbulent than ever, and soon after was one of the celebrated "council de Seize quartier," who took upon them, with an effrontery which has no parallel in history, to dispose of the crown of France; and actually went the length of offering it to Philip II. of Spain, to be bestowed on whomsoever he thought fit. Of all the bigoted and merciless fanatics who composed the fraternity of the "Seize," Hamilton was the most bigoted and relentless; and when those wretches had resolved on the murder of Brisson, president of the parliament of Paris, together with LíArcher, and Tardif, two obnoxious councillors, it was Hamilton who arrested the latter, and dragged him from a sick bed to the scaffold; and although the duke of Mayenne came immediately to Paris on hearing of these attrocities, and hanged four of the ring-leaders of the infamous fraternity by which they had been perpetrated, yet Hamilton by some means or other contrived to escape sharing in their punishment. In 1594, his unextinguishable zeal again placed him in an extraordinary and conspicuous position. On the day on which Henry IV. entered Paris, after embracing the catholic religion, and while Te Deum was celebrating for the restoration of peace and good government, Hamilton, with some of his frantic associates, flew to arms, with the desperate design of still expelling the king, in whose conversion they had no faith. The attempt, however, as might have been expected, was a total failure, and Hamilton was taken into custody, but was afterwards allowed to leave France without farther punishment. The parliament, however, some time after his departure, sentenced him to be broken on the wheel for the murder of Tardif, and as he was not then forthcoming in person, ordered that their decree should be carried into execution on his effigy. Hamilton in the meantime had retired to the Low Countries, and was now residing at Brussels, under the Spanish government.

In 1600, he published another work on religious matters, entitled "A Catalogue of one hundred and sixty-seven heresies, lies, and calumnies, teachit and practisit be the ministers of Calvinís sect, and corruptions of twenty-three passages of the Scripture be the ministeris adulterate translations thereof." This work he dedicated to the Scottish king. In 1601, Hamilton returned to his native country, after an absence of above thirty years. He was there joined by one Edmond Hay, an eminent Jesuit, equally turbulent and factious with himself. The arrival of these two dangerous men, whose characters were well known, especially that of Hamilton, having reached the ears of the king, he immediately issued a proclamation, enjoining their instant departure from the kingdom under pain of treason, and declared all guilty of the like crime who harboured them.

Notwithstanding this edict, Hamilton contrived to find shelter in the north, and to elude for some time the vigilance of the government. Amongst others who contravened the kingís proclamation on this occasion was the lord Ogilvie, who afforded him a temporary residence at his house of Airly. At length the Scottish privy council, determined to have possession of so dangerous a person, despatched a party of life-guards to apprehend him. When found and desired to surrender, this indomitable and factious spirit, who had bearded the king of France in his might, and treated the orders of a Scottish privy council with contempt, endeavoured to resist them, but in vain. His life, however, was afterwards spared by the king, who, by a very slight stretch of certain laws then existing, might have deprived him of it. This clemency is said to have arisen from Jamesís regard for Hamiltonís nephew, then Sir Thomas Hamilton, afterwards earl of Haddington. The former, after his capture, spent the remainder of his days in the Tower, where he was sent at once for his own safety and that of the kingdom.

Amongst other peculiarities of Hamilton, it is recorded that he entertained a strong aversion to the introduction of English words into the Scottish language, a practice which was then becoming fashionable; and in the abuse which he was constantly heaping on the protestant preachers, he frequently charges them with "Knapping Suddrone," (aiming at English,) and still greater enormity with having it "imprentit at London in contempt of our native language;" and in proof at once of his abhorrence of all innovation in this particular, and of his partiality for the native unadulterated language of his own country, he always wrote in a style somewhat more uncouth than was warranted by the period in which he lived.

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