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Reflections  >  T.B. Macaulay, History of England  >  Ch. V, The Monmouth Rebellion (part 2)


T.B. Macaulay

History of England

Chap. V, The Monmouth Rebellion
(continued)


Preparations made by Government for the Defence of Scotland
Conversation of James with the Dutch Ambassadors
Ineffectual Attempts to prevent Argyle from sailing
Departure of Argyle from Holland
He lands in Scotland
His Disputes with his Followers
Temper of the Scotch Nation
Argyle's Forces dispersed
Argyle a Prisoner
His Execution
Execution of Rumbold
Death of Ayloffe
Devastation of Argyleshire


Preparations made by Government for the Defence of Scotland

The English government was early apprised that something was in agitation among the outlaws. An invasion of England seems not to have been at first expected; but it was apprehended that Argyle would shortly appear in arms among his clansmen. A proclamation was accordingly issued directing that Scotland should be put into a state of defence. The militia was ordered to be in readiness. All the clans hostile to the name of Campbell were set in motion. John Murray, Marquess of Athol, was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Argyleshire, and, at the head of a great body of his followers, occupied the castle of Inverary. Some suspected persons were arrested. Others were compelled to give hostages. Ships of war were sent to cruise near the isle of Bute; and part of the army of Ireland was moved to the coast of Ulster.(343)

Conversation of James with the Dutch Ambassadors

While these preparations were making in Scotland, James called into his closet Arnold Van Citters, who had long resided in England as Ambassador from the United Provinces, and Everard Van Dykvelt, who, after the death of Charles, had been sent by the State General on a special mission of condolence and congratulation. The King said that he had received from unquestionable sources intelligence of designs which were forming against the throne by his banished subjects in Holland. Some of the exiles were cutthroats, whom nothing but the special providence of God had prevented from committing a foul murder; and among them was the owner of the spot which had been fixed for the butchery. "Of all men living," said the King, "Argyle has the greatest means of annoying me; and of all places Holland is that whence a blow may be best aimed against me." The Dutch envoys assured his Majesty that what he had said should instantly be communicated to the government which they represented, and expressed their full confidence that every exertion would be made to satisfy him.(344)

They were justified in expressing this confidence. Both the Prince of Orange and the States General, were, at this time, most desirous that the hospitality of their country should not be abused for purposes of which the English government could justly complain. James had lately held language which encouraged the hope that he would not patiently submit to the ascendancy of France. It seemed probable that he would consent to form a close alliance with the United Provinces and the House of Austria. There was, therefore, at the Hague, an extreme anxiety to avoid all that could give him offence. The personal interest of William was also on this occasion identical with the interest of his father in law.

Ineffectual Attempts to prevent Argyle from sailing

But the case was one which required rapid and vigorous action; and the nature of the Batavian institutions made such action almost impossible. The Union of Utrecht, rudely formed, amidst the agonies of a revolution, for the purpose of meeting immediate exigencies, had never been deliberately revised and perfected in a time of tranquillity. Every one of the seven commonwealths which that Union had bound together retained almost all the rights of sovereignty, and asserted those rights punctiliously against the central government. As the federal authorities had not the means of exacting prompt obedience from the provincial authorities, so the provincial authorities had not the means of exacting prompt obedience from the municipal authorities. Holland alone contained eighteen cities, each of which was, for many purposes, an independent state, jealous of all interference from without. If the rulers of such a city received from the Hague an order which was unpleasing to them, they either neglected it altogether, or executed it languidly and tardily. In some town councils, indeed, the influence of the Prince of Orange was all powerful. But unfortunately the place where the British exiles had congregated, and where their ships had been fitted out, was the rich and populous Amsterdam; and the magistrates of Amsterdam were the heads of the faction hostile to the federal government and to the House of Nassau. The naval administration of the United Provinces was conducted by five distinct boards of Admiralty. One of those boards sate at Amsterdam, was partly nominated by the authorities of that city, and seems to have been entirely animated by their spirit.

All the endeavours of the federal government to effect what James desired were frustrated by the evasions of the functionaries of Amsterdam, and by the blunders of Colonel Bevil Skelton, who had just arrived at the Hague as envoy from England. Skelton had been born in Holland during the English troubles, and was therefore supposed to be peculiarly qualified for his post;(345) but he was, in truth, unfit for that and for every other diplomatic situation. Excellent judges of character pronounced him to be the most shallow, fickle, passionate, presumptuous, and garrulous of men.(346) He took no serious notice of the proceedings of the refugees till three vessels which had been equipped for the expedition to Scotland were safe out of the Zuyder Zee, till the arms, ammunition, and provisions were on board, and till the passengers had embarked. Then, instead of applying, as he should have done, to the States General, who sate close to his own door, he sent a messenger to the magistrates of Amsterdam, with a request that the suspected ships might be detained. The magistrates of Amsterdam answered that the entrance of the Zuyder Zee was out of their jurisdiction, and referred him to the federal government. It was notorious that this was a mere excuse, and that, if there had been any real wish at the Stadthouse of Amsterdam to prevent Argyle from sailing, no difficulties would have been made. Skelton now addressed himself to the States General. They showed every disposition to comply with his demand, and, as the case was urgent, departed from the course which they ordinarily observed in the transaction of business. On the same day on which he made his application to them, an order, drawn in exact conformity with his request, was despatched to the Admiralty of Amsterdam. But this order, in consequence of some misinformation, did not correctly describe the situation of the ships. They were said to be in the Texel. They were in the Vlie. The Admiralty of Amsterdam made this error a plea for doing nothing; and, before the error could be rectified, the three ships had sailed.(347)

Departure of Argyle from Holland

The last hours which Argyle passed on the coast of Holland were hours of great anxiety. Near him lay a Dutch man of war whose broadside would in a moment have put an end to his expedition. Round his little fleet a boat was rowing, in which were some persons with telescopes whom he suspected to be spies. But no effectual step was taken for the purpose of detaining him; and on the afternoon of the second of May he stood out to sea before a favourable breeze.

The voyage was prosperous. On the sixth the Orkneys were in sight. Argyle very unwisely anchored off Kirkwall, and allowed two of his followers to go on shore there. The Bishop ordered them to be arrested. The refugees proceeded to hold a long and animated debate on this misadventure: for, from the beginning to the end of their expedition, however languid and irresolute their conduct might be, they never in debate wanted spirit or perseverance. Some were for an attack on Kirkwall. Some were for proceeding without delay to Argyleshire. At last the Earl seized some gentlemen who lived near the coast of the island, and proposed to the Bishop an exchange of prisoners. The Bishop returned no answer; and the fleet, after losing three days, sailed away.

He lands in Scotland

asterix This delay was full of danger. It was speedily known at Edinburgh that the rebel squadron had touched at the Orkneys. Troops were instantly put in motion. When the Earl reached his own province, he found that preparations had been made to repel him. At Dunstaffnage he sent his second son Charles on shore to call the Campbells to arms. But Charles returned with gloomy tidings. The herdsmen and fishermen were indeed ready to rally round Mac Callum More; but, of the heads of the clan, some were in confinement, and others had fled. Those gentlemen who remained at their homes were either well affected to the government or afraid of moving, and refused even to see the son of their chief. From Dunstaffnage the small armament proceeded to Campbelltown, near the southern extremity of the peninsula of Kintyre. Here the Earl published a manifesto, drawn up in Holland, under the direction of the Committee, by James Stewart, a Scotch advocate, whose pen was, a few months later, employed in a very different way. In this paper were set forth, with a strength of language sometimes approaching to scurrility, many real and some imaginary grievances. It was hinted that the late King had died by poison. A chief object of the expedition was declared to be the entire suppression, not only of Popery, but of Prelacy, which was termed the most bitter root and offspring of Popery; and all good Scotchmen were exhorted to do valiantly for the cause of their country and of their God.

Zealous as Argyle was for what he considered as pure religion, he did not scruple to practice one rite half Popish and half Pagan. The mysterious cross of yew, first set on fire, and then quenched in the blood of a goat, was sent forth to summon all the Campbells, from sixteen to sixty. The isthmus of Tarbet was appointed for the place of gathering. The muster, though small indeed when compared with what it would have been if the spirit and strength of the clan had been unbroken, was still formidable. The whole force assembled amounted to about eighteen hundred men. Argyle divided his mountaineers into three regiments, and proceeded to appoint officers.

His Disputes with his Followers

The bickerings which had begun in Holland had never been intermitted during the whole course of the expedition; but at Tarbet they became more violent than ever. The Committee wished to interfere even with the patriarchal dominion of the Earl over the Campbells, and would not allow him to settle the military rank of his kinsmen by his own authority. While these disputatious meddlers tried to wrest from him his power over the Highlands, they carried on their own correspondence with the Lowlands, and received and sent letters which were never communicated to the nominal General. Hume and his confederates had reserved to themselves the superintendence of the Stores, and conducted this important part of the administration of war with a laxity hardly to be distinguished from dishonesty, suffered the arms to be spoiled, wasted the provisions, and lived riotously at a time when they ought to have set to all beneath them an example of abstemiousness.

The great question was whether the Highlands or the Lowlands should be the seat of war. The Earl's first object was to establish his authority over his own domains, to drive out the invading clans which had been poured from Perthshire into Argyleshire, and to take possession of the ancient seat of his family at Inverary. He might then hope to have four or five thousand claymores at his command. With such a force he would be able to defend that wild country against the whole power of the kingdom of Scotland. and would also have secured an excellent base for offensive operations. This seems to have been the wisest course open to him. Rumbold, who had been trained in an excellent military school, and who, as an Englishman, might be supposed to be an impartial umpire between the Scottish factions, did all in his power to strengthen the Earl's hands. But Hume and Cochrane were utterly impracticable. Their jealousy of Argyle was, in truth, stronger than their wish for the success of the expedition. They saw that, among his own mountains and lakes, and at the head of an army chiefly composed of his own tribe, he would be able to bear down their opposition, and to exercise the full authority of a General. They muttered that the only men who had the good cause at heart were the Lowlanders, and that the Campbells took up arms neither for liberty nor for the Church of God, but for Mac Callum More alone.

Cochrane declared that he would go to Ayrshire if he went by himself, and with nothing but a pitchfork in his hand. Argyle, after long resistance, consented, against his better judgment, to divide his little army. He remained with Rumbold in the Highlands. Cochrane and Hume were at the head of the force which sailed to invade the Lowlands.

Ayrshire was Cochrane's object: but the coast of Ayrshire was guarded by English frigates; and the adventurers were under the necessity of running up the estuary of the Clyde to Greenock, then a small fishing village consisting of a single row of thatched hovels, now a great and flourishing port, of which the customs amount to more than five times the whole revenue which the Stuarts derived from the kingdom of Scotland. A party of militia lay at Greenock: but Cochrane, who wanted provisions, was determined to land. Hume objected. Cochrane was peremptory, and ordered an officer, named Elphinstone, to take twenty men in a boat to the shore. But the wrangling spirit of the leaders had infected all ranks. Elphinstone answered that he was bound to obey only reasonable commands, that he considered this command as unreasonable, and, in short, that he would not go. Major Fullarton, a brave man, esteemed by all parties, but peculiarly attached to Argyle, undertook to land with only twelve men, and did so in spite of a fire from the coast. A slight skirmish followed. The militia fell back. Cochrane entered Greenock and procured a supply of meal, but found no disposition to insurrection among the people.

Temper of the Scotch Nation

In fact, the state of public feeling in Scotland was not such as the exiles, misled by the infatuation common in all ages to exiles, had supposed it to be. The government was, indeed, hateful and hated. But the malecontents were divided into parties which were almost as hostile to one another as to their rulers; nor was any of those parties eager to join the invaders. Many thought that the insurrection had no chance of success. The spirit of many had been effectually broken by long and cruel oppression. There was, indeed, a class of enthusiasts who were little in the habit of calculating chances, and whom oppression had not tamed but maddened. But these men saw little difference between Argyle and James. Their wrath had been heated to such a temperature that what everybody else would have called boiling zeal seemed to them Laodicean lukewarmness. The Earl's past life had been stained by what they regarded as the vilest apostasy. The very Highlanders whom he now summoned to extirpate Prelacy he had a few years before summoned to defend it. And were slaves who knew nothing and cared nothing about religion, who were ready to fight for synodical government, for Episcopacy, for Popery, just as Mac Callum More might be pleased to command, fit allies for the people of God? The manifesto, indecent and intolerant as was its tone, was, in the view of these fanatics, a cowardly and worldly performance. A settlement such as Argyle would have made, such as was afterwards made by a mightier and happier deliverer, seemed to them not worth a struggle. They wanted not only freedom of conscience for themselves, but absolute dominion over the consciences of others; not only the Presbyterian doctrine, polity, and worship, but the Covenant in its utmost rigour. Nothing would content them but that every end for which civil society exists should be sacrificed to the ascendency of a theological system. One who believed no form of church government to be worth a breach of Christian charity, and who recommended comprehension and toleration, was in their phrase, halting between Jehovah and Baal. One who condemned such acts as the murder of Cardinal Beatoun and Archbishop Sharpe fell into the same sin for which Saul had been rejected from being King over Israel. All the rules, by which, among civilised and Christian men, the horrors of war are mitigated, were abominations in the sight of the Lord. Quarter was to be neither taken nor given. A Malay running a muck, a mad dog pursued by a crowd, were the models to be imitated by warriors fighting in just self-defence. To reasons such as guide the conduct of statesmen and generals the minds of these zealots were absolutely impervious. That a man should venture to urge such reasons was sufficient evidence that he was not one of the faithful. If the divine blessing were withheld, little would be effected by crafty politicians, by veteran captains, by cases of arms from Holland, or by regiments of unregenerate Celts from the mountains of Lorn. If, on the other hand, the Lord's time were indeed come, he could still, as of old, cause the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and could save alike by many and by few. The broadswords of Athol and the bayonets of Claverhouse would be put to rout by weapons as insignificant as the sling of David or the pitcher of Gideon.(348)

Cochrane, having found it impossible to raise the population on the south of the Clyde, rejoined Argyle, who was in the island of Bute. The Earl now again proposed to make an attempt upon Inverary. Again he encountered a pertinacious opposition. The seamen sided with Hume and Cochrane. The Highlanders were absolutely at the command of their chieftain. There was reason to fear that the two parties would come to blows; and the dread of such a disaster induced the Committee to make some concession. The castle of Ealan Ghierig, situated at the mouth of Loch Riddan, was selected to be the chief place of arms. The military stores were disembarked there. The squadron was moored close to the walls in a place where it was protected by rocks and shallows such as, it was thought, no frigate could pass. Outworks were thrown up. A battery was planted with some small guns taken from the ships. The command of the fort was most unwisely given to Elphinstone, who had already proved himself much more disposed to argue with his commanders than to fight the enemy.

And now, during a few hours, there was some show of vigour. Rumbold took the castle of Ardkinglass. The Earl skirmished successfully with Athol's troops, and was about to advance on Inverary, when alarming news from the ships and factions in the Committee forced him to turn back. The King's frigates had come nearer to Ealan Ghierig than had been thought possible. The Lowland gentlemen positively refused to advance further into the Highlands. Argyle hastened back to Ealan Ghierig. There he proposed to make an attack on the frigates. His ships, indeed, were ill fitted for such an encounter. But they would have been supported by a flotilla of thirty large fishing boats, each well manned with armed Highlanders. The Committee, however, refused to listen to this plan, and effectually counteracted it by raising a mutiny among the sailors.

All was now confusion and despondency. The provisions had been so ill managed by the Committee that there was no longer food for the troops. The Highlanders consequently deserted by hundreds; and the Earl, brokenhearted by his misfortunes, yielded to the urgency of those who still pertinaciously insisted that he should march into the Lowlands.

The little army therefore hastened to the shore of Loch Long, passed that inlet by night in boats, and landed in Dumbartonshire. Hither, on the following morning, came news that the frigates had forced a passage, that all the Earl's ships had been taken, and that Elphinstone had fled from Ealan Ghierig without a blow, leaving the castle and stores to the enemy.

All that remained was to invade the Lowlands under every disadvantage. Argyle resolved to make a bold push for Glasgow. But, as soon as this resolution was announced, the very men, who had, up to that moment, been urging him to hasten into the low country, took fright, argued, remonstrated, and when argument and remonstrance proved vain, laid a scheme for seizing the boats, making their own escape, and leaving their General and his clansmen to conquer or perish unaided. This scheme failed; and the poltroons who had formed it were compelled to share with braver men the risks of the last venture.

During the march through the country which lies between Loch Long and Loch Lomond, the insurgents were constantly infested by parties of militia. Some skirmishes took place, in which the Earl had the advantage; but the bands which he repelled, falling back before him, spread the tidings of his approach, and, soon after he had crossed the river Leven, he found a strong body of regular and irregular troops prepared to encounter him.

He was for giving battle. Ayloffe was of the same opinion. Hume, on the other hand, declared that to fight would be madness. He saw one regiment in scarlet. More might be behind. To attack such a force was to rush on certain death The best course was to remain quiet till night, and then to give the enemy the slip.

A sharp altercation followed, which was with difficulty quieted by the mediation of Rumbold. It was now evening. The hostile armies encamped at no great distance from each other. The Earl ventured to propose a night attack, and was again overruled.

Argyle's Forces dispersed

asterix Since it was determined not to fight, nothing was left but to take the step which Hume had recommended. There was a chance that, by decamping secretly, and hastening all night across heaths and morasses, the Earl might gain many miles on the enemy, and might reach Glasgow without further obstruction. The watch fires were left burning; and the march began. And now disaster followed disaster fast. The guides mistook the track across the moors, and led the army into boggy ground. Military order could not be preserved by undisciplined and disheartened soldiers under a dark sky, and on a treacherous and uneven soil. Panic after panic spread through the broken ranks. Every sight and sound was thought to indicate the approach of pursuers. Some of the officers contributed to spread the terror which it was their duty to calm. The army had become a mob; and the mob melted fast away. Great numbers fled under cover of the night. Rumbold and a few other brave men whom no danger could have scared lost their way, and were unable to rejoin the main body. When the day broke, only five hundred fugitives, wearied and dispirited, assembled at Kilpatrick.

Argyle a Prisoner

All thought of prosecuting the war was at an end: and it was plain that the chiefs of the expedition would have sufficient difficulty in escaping with their lives. They fled in different directions. Hume reached the Continent in safety. Cochrane was taken and sent up to London. Argyle hoped to find a secure asylum under the roof of one of his old servants who lived near Kilpatrick. But this hope was disappointed; and he was forced to cross the Clyde. He assumed the dress of a peasant and pretended to be the guide of Major Fullarton, whose courageous fidelity was proof to all danger. The friends journeyed together through Renfrewshire as far as Inchinnan. At that place the Black Cart and the White Cart, two streams which now flow through prosperous towns, and turn the wheels of many factories, but which then held their quiet course through moors and sheepwalks, mingle before they join the Clyde. The only ford by which the travellers could cross was guarded by a party of militia. Some questions were asked. Fullarton tried to draw suspicion on himself, in order that his companion might escape unnoticed. But the minds of the questioners misgave them that the guide was not the rude clown that he seemed. They laid hands on him. He broke loose and sprang into the water, but was instantly chased. He stood at bay for a short time against five assailants. But he had no arms except his pocket pistols, and they were so wet, in consequence of his plunge, that they would not go off. He was struck to the ground with a broadsword, and secured.

He owned himself to be the Earl of Argyle, probably in the hope that his great name would excite the awe and pity of those who had seized him. And indeed they were much moved. For they were plain Scotchmen of humble rank, and, though in arms for the crown, probably cherished a preference for the Calvinistic church government and worship, and had been accustomed to reverence their captive as the head of an illustrious house and as a champion of the Protestant religion But, though they were evidently touched, and though some of them even wept, they were not disposed to relinquish a large reward and to incur the vengeance of an implacable government. They therefore conveyed their prisoner to Renfrew. The man who bore the chief part in the arrest was named Riddell. On this account the whole race of Riddells was, during more than a century, held in abhorrence by the great tribe of Campbell. Within living memory, when a Riddell visited a fair in Argyleshire, he found it necessary to assume a false name.

And now commenced the brightest part of Argyle's career. His enterprise had hitherto brought on him nothing but reproach and derision. His great error was that he did not resolutely refuse to accept the name without the power of a general. Had he remained quietly at his retreat in Friesland, he would in a few years have been recalled with honour to his country, and would have been conspicuous among the ornaments and the props of constitutional monarchy. Had he conducted his expedition according to his own views, and carried with him no followers but such as were prepared implicitly to obey all his orders, he might possibly have effected something great. For what he wanted as a captain seems to have been, not courage, nor activity, nor skill, but simply authority. He should have known that of all wants this is the most fatal. Armies have triumphed under leaders who possessed no very eminent qualifications. But what army commanded by a debating club ever escaped discomfiture and disgrace?

The great calamity which had fallen on Argyle had this advantage, that it enabled him to show, by proofs not to be mistaken, what manner of man he was. From the day when he quitted. Friesland to the day when his followers separated at Kilpatrick, he had never been a free agent. He had borne the responsibility of a long series of measures which his judgment disapproved. Now at length he stood alone. Captivity had restored to him the noblest kind of liberty, the liberty of governing himself in all his words and actions according to his own sense of the right and of the becoming. From that moment he became as one inspired with new wisdom and virtue. His intellect seemed to be strengthened and concentrated, his moral character to be at once elevated and softened. The insolence of the conquerors spared nothing that could try the temper of a man proud of ancient nobility and of patriarchal dominion. The prisoner was dragged through Edinburgh in triumph. He walked on foot, bareheaded, up the whole length of that stately street which, overshadowed by dark and gigantic piles of stone, leads from Holyrood House to the Castle. Before him marched the hangman, bearing the ghastly instrument which was to be used at the quartering block. The victorious party had not forgotten that, thirty-five years before this time, the father of Argyle had been at the head of the faction which put Montrose to death. Before that event the houses of Graham and Campbell had borne no love to each other; and they had ever since been at deadly feud. Care was taken that the prisoner should pass through the same gate and the same streets through which Montrose had been led to the same doom.(349) When the Earl reached the Castle his legs were put in irons, and he was informed that he had but a few days to live. It had been determined not to bring him to trial for his recent offence, but to put him to death under the sentence pronounced against him several years before, a sentence so flagitiously unjust that the most servile and obdurate lawyers of that bad age could not speak of it without shame.

But neither the ignominious procession up the High Street, nor the near view of death, had power to disturb the gentle and majestic patience of Argyle. His fortitude was tried by a still more severe test. A paper of interrogatories was laid before him by order of the Privy Council. He replied to those questions to which he could reply without danger to any of his friends, and refused to say more. He was told that unless he returned fuller answers he should be put to the torture. James, who was doubtless sorry that he could not feast his own eyes with the sight of Argyle in the boots, sent down to Edinburgh positive orders that nothing should be omitted which could wring out of the traitor information against all who had been concerned in the treason. But menaces were vain. With torments and death in immediate prospect Mac Callum More thought far less of himself than of his poor clansmen. "I was busy this day," he wrote from his cell, "treating for them, and in some hopes. But this evening orders came that I must die upon Monday or Tuesday; and I am to be put to the torture if I answer not all questions upon oath. Yet I hope God shall support me."

The torture was not inflicted. Perhaps the magnanimity of the victim had moved the conquerors to unwonted compassion. He himself remarked that at first they had been very harsh to him, but that they soon began to treat him with respect and kindness. God, he said, had melted their hearts. It is certain that he did not, to save himself from the utmost cruelty of his enemies, betray any of his friends. On the last morning of his life he wrote these words: "I have named none to their disadvantage. I thank God he hath supported me wonderfully!"

He composed his own epitaph, a short poem, full of meaning and spirit, simple and forcible in style, and not contemptible in versification. In this little piece he complained that, though his enemies had repeatedly decreed his death, his friends had been still more cruel. A comment on these expressions is to be found in a letter which he addressed to a lady residing in Holland. She had furnished him with a large sum of money for his expedition, and he thought her entitled to a full explanation of the causes which had led to his failure. He acquitted his coadjutors of treachery, but described their folly, their ignorance, and their factious perverseness, in terms which their own testimony has since proved to have been richly deserved. He afterwards doubted whether he had not used language too severe to become a dying Christian, and, in a separate paper, begged his friend to suppress what he had said of these men "Only this I must acknowledge," he mildly added; "they were not governable."

Most of his few remaining hours were passed in devotion, and in affectionate intercourse with some members of his family. He professed no repentance on account of his last enterprise, but bewailed, with great emotion, his former compliance in spiritual things with the pleasure of the government He had, he said, been justly punished. One who had so long been guilty of cowardice and dissimulation was not worthy to be the instrument of salvation to the State and Church. Yet the cause, he frequently repeated, was the cause of God, and would assuredly triumph. "I do not," he said, "take on myself to be a prophet. But I have a strong impression on my spirit, that deliverance will come very suddenly." It is not strange that some zealous Presbyterians should have laid up his saying in their hearts, and should, at a later period, have attributed it to divine inspiration.

His Execution

So effectually had religious faith and hope, co-operating with natural courage and equanimity, composed his spirits, that, on the very day on which he was to die, he dined with appetite, conversed with gaiety at table, and, after his last meal, lay down, as he was wont, to take a short slumber, in order that his body and mind might be in full vigour when he should mount the scaffold. At this time one of the Lords of the Council, who had probably been bred a Presbyterian, and had been seduced by interest to join in oppressing the Church of which he had once been a member, came to the Castle with a message from his brethren, and demanded admittance to the Earl. It was answered that the Earl was asleep. The Privy Councillor thought that this was a subterfuge, and insisted on entering. The door of the cell was softly opened; and there lay Argyle, on the bed, sleeping, in his irons, the placid sleep of infancy. The conscience of the renegade smote him. He turned away sick at heart, ran out of the Castle, and took refuge in the dwelling of a lady of his family who lived hard by. There he flung himself on a couch, and gave himself up to an agony of remorse and shame. His kinswoman, alarmed by his looks and groans, thought that he had been taken with sudden illness, and begged him to drink a cup of sack. "No, no," he said; "that will do me no good." She prayed him to tell her what had disturbed him. "I have been," he said, "in Argyle's prison. I have seen him within an hour of eternity, sleeping as sweetly as ever man did. But as for me -----"

And now the Earl had risen from his bed, and had prepared himself for what was yet to be endured. He was first brought down the High Street to the Council House, where he was to remain during the short interval which was still to elapse before the execution. During that interval he asked for pen and ink, and wrote to his wife: "Dear heart, God is unchangeable: He hath always been good and gracious to me: and no place alters it. Forgive me all my faults; and now comfort thyself in Him, in whom only true comfort is to be found. The Lord be with thee, bless and comfort thee, my dearest. Adieu."

It was now time to leave the Council House. The divines who attended the prisoner were not of his own persuasion; but he listened to them with civility, and exhorted them to caution their flocks against those doctrines which all Protestant churches unite in condemning. He mounted the scaffold, where the rude old guillotine of Scotland, called the Maiden, awaited him, and addressed the people in a speech, tinctured with the peculiar phraseology of his sect, but breathing the spirit of serene piety. His enemies, he said, he forgave, as he hoped to be forgiven. Only a single acrimonious expression escaped him. One of the episcopal clergymen who attended him went to the edge of the scaffold, and called out in a loud voice, "My Lord dies a Protestant." "Yes," said the Earl, stepping forward, "and not only a Protestant, but with a heart hatred of Popery, of Prelacy, and of all superstition." He then embraced his friends, put into their hands some tokens of remembrance for his wife and children, kneeled down, laid his head on the block, prayed during a few minutes, and gave the signal to the executioner. His head was fixed on the top of the Tolbooth, where the head of Montrose had formerly decayed.(350)

Execution of Rumbold

asterix The head of the brave and sincere, though not blameless Rumbold, was already on the West Port of Edinburgh. Surrounded by factious and cowardly associates, he had, through the whole campaign, behaved himself like a soldier trained in the school of the great Protector, had in council strenuously supported the authority of Argyle, and had in the field been distinguished by tranquil intrepidity. After the dispersion of the army he was set upon by a party of militia. He defended himself desperately, and would have cut his way through them, had they not hamstringed his horse. He was brought to Edinburgh mortally wounded. The wish of the government was that he should be executed in England. But he was so near death, that, if he was not hanged in Scotland, he could not be hanged at all; and the pleasure of hanging him was one which the conquerors could not bear to forego. It was indeed not to be expected that they would show much lenity to one who was regarded as the chief of the Rye House plot, and who was the owner of the building from which that plot took its name: but the insolence with which they treated the dying man seems to our more humane age almost incredible. One of the Scotch Privy Councillors told him that he was a confounded villain. "I am at peace with God," answered Rumbold, calmly; "how then can I be confounded?"

He was hastily tried, convicted, and sentenced to be hanged and quartered within a few hours, near the City Cross in the High Street. Though unable to stand without the support of two men, he maintained his fortitude to the last, and under the gibbet raised his feeble voice against Popery and tyranny with such vehemence that the officers ordered the drums to strike up, lest the people should hear him. He was a friend, he said, to limited monarchy. But he never would believe that Providence had sent a few men into the world ready booted and spurred to ride, and millions ready saddled and bridled to be ridden. "I desire," he cried, "to bless and magnify God's holy name for this, that I stand here, not for any wrong that I have done, but for adhering to his cause in an evil day. If every hair of my head were a man, in this quarrel I would venture them all."

Both at his trial and at his execution he spoke of assassination with the abhorrence which became a good Christian and a brave soldier. He had never, he protested, on the faith of a dying man, harboured the thought of committing such villany. But he frankly owned that, in conversation with his fellow conspirators, he had mentioned his own house as a place where Charles and James might with advantage be attacked, and that much had been said on the subject, though nothing had been determined. It may at first sight seem that this acknowledgment is inconsistent with his declaration that he had always regarded assassination with horror. But the truth appears to be that he was imposed upon by a distinction which deluded many of his contemporaries. Nothing would have induced him to put poison into the food of the two princes, or to poinard them in their sleep. But to make an unexpected onset on the troop of Life Guards which surrounded the royal coach, to exchange sword cuts and pistol shots, and to take the chance of slaying or of being slain, was, in his view, a lawful military operation. Ambuscades and surprises were among the ordinary incidents of war. Every old soldier, Cavalier or Roundhead, had been engaged in such enterprises. If in the skirmish the King should fall, he would fall by fair fighting and not by murder. Precisely the same reasoning was employed, after the Revolution, by James himself and by some of his most devoted followers, to justify a wicked attempt on the life of William the Third. A band of Jacobites was commissioned to attack the Prince of Orange in his winter quarters. The meaning latent under this specious phrase was that the Prince's throat was to be cut as he went in his coach from Richmond to Kensington. It may seem strange that such fallacies, the dregs of the Jesuitical casuistry, should have had power to seduce men of heroic spirit, both Whigs and Tories, into a crime on which divine and human laws have justly set a peculiar note of infamy. But no sophism is too gross to delude minds distempered by party spirit.(351)

Argyle, who survived Rumbold a few hours, left a dying testimony to the virtues of the gallant Englishman. "Poor Rumbold was a great support to me, and a brave man, and died Christianly."(352)

Death of Ayloffe

Ayloffe showed as much contempt of death as either Argyle or Rumbold: but his end did not, like theirs, edify pious minds. Though political sympathy had drawn him towards the Puritans, he had no religious sympathy with them, and was indeed regarded by them as little better than an atheist. He belonged to that section of the Whigs which sought for models rather among the patriots of Greece and Rome than among the prophets and judges of Israel. He was taken prisoner, and carried to Glasgow. There he attempted to destroy himself with a small penknife: but though he gave himself several wounds, none of them proved mortal, and he had strength enough left to bear a journey to London. He was brought before the Privy Council, and interrogated by the King, but had too much elevation of mind to save himself by informing against others. A story was current among the Whigs that the King said, "You had better be frank with me, Mr. Ayloffe. You know that it is in my power to pardon you." Then, it was rumoured, the captive broke his sullen silence, and answered, "It may he in your power; but it is not in your nature." He was executed under his old outlawry before the gate of the Temple, and died with stoical composure.(353)

Devastation of Argyleshire

In the meantime the vengeance of the conquerors was mercilessly wreaked on the people of Argyleshire. Many of the Campbells were hanged by Athol without a trial; and he was with difficulty restrained by the Privy Council from taking more lives. The country to the extent of thirty miles round Inverary was wasted. Houses were burned: the stones of mills were broken to pieces: fruit trees were cut down, and the very roots seared with fire. The nets and fishing boats, the sole means by which many inhabitants of the coast subsisted, were destroyed. More than three hundred rebels and malecontents were transported to the colonies. Many of them were also sentenced to mutilation. On a single day the hangman of Edinburgh cut off the ears of thirty-five prisoners. Several women were sent across the Atlantic after being first branded in the cheek with a hot iron. It was even in contemplation to obtain an act of Parliament proscribing the name of Campbell, as the name of Macgregor had been proscribed eighty years before.(354)

Argyle's expedition appears to have produced little sensation in the south of the island. The tidings of his landing reached London just before the English Parliament met. The King mentioned the news from the throne; and the Houses assured him that they would stand by him against every enemy. Nothing more was required of them. Over Scotland they had no authority; and a war of which the theatre was so distant, and of which the event might, almost from the first, be easily foreseen, excited only a languid interest in London.

Ch. V, next part


Notes and Links

343 -
Wodrow, book iii. chap. ix; London Gazette, May 11, 1685; Barillon, May 11-21.
344 -
Register of the Proceedings of the States General, May 5-15, 1685.
345 -
This is mentioned in his credentials, dated on the 16th of March, 1684-5.
346 -
Bonrepaux to Seignelay, February 4-14, 1686.
347 -
Avaux Neg. April 30,/May 10, May 1-11, May 5-15, 1685; Sir Patrick Hume's Narrative; Letter from The Admiralty of Amsterdam to the States General, dated June 20, 1685; Memorial of Skelton, delivered to the States General, May 10, 1685.
348 -
If any person is inclined to suspect that I have exaggerated the absurdity and ferocity of these men, I would advise him to read two books, which will convince him that I have rather softened than overcharged the portrait, the Hind Let Loose, and Faithful Contendings Displayed.
349 -
A few words which were in the first five editions have been omitted in this place. Here and in another passage I had, as Mr. Aytoun has observed, mistaken the City Guards, which were commanded by an officer named Graham, for the Dragoons of Graham of Claverhouse.
350 -
The authors from whom I have taken the history of Argyle's expedition are Sir Patrick Hume, who was an eyewitness of what he related, and Wodrow, who had access to materials of the greatest value, among which were the Earl's own papers. Wherever there is a question of veracity between Argyle and Hume, I have no doubt that Argyle's narrative ought to be followed.
    See also Burnet, i. 631, and the life of Bresson, published by Dr. Mac Crie. The account of the Scotch rebellion in the Life of James the Second, is a ridiculous romance, not written by the King himself, nor derived from his papers, but composed by a Jacobite who did not even take the trouble to look at a map of the seat of war.
351 -
Wodrow, III. ix 10; Western Martyrology; Burnet, i. 633; Fox's History, Appendix iv. I can find no way, except that indicated in the text, of reconciling Rumbold's denial that he had ever admitted into his mind the thought of assassination with his confession that he had himself mentioned his own house as a convenient place for an attack on the royal brothers. The distinction which I suppose him to have taken was certainly taken by another Rye House conspirator, who was, like him, an old soldier of the Commonwealth, Captain Walcot. On Walcot's trial, West, the witness for the crown, said, "Captain, you did agree to be one of those that were to fight the Guards." "What, then, was the reason." asked Chief Justice Pemberton, "that he would not kill the King?" "He said," answered West, "that it was a base thing to kill a naked man, and he would not do it."
352 -
Wodrow, III. ix. 9.
353 -
Wade's narrative, Harl, MS. 6845; Burnet, i. 634; Van Citters's Despatch of Oct. 30,/Nov. 9, 1685; Luttrell's Diary of the same date.
354 -
Wodrow, III, ix. 4, and III. ix. 10. Wodrow gives from the Acts of Council the names of all the prisoners who were transported, mutilated or branded.

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