Page images

provoke by aggression and severity. Nor could they plead, like the covenanters, that they used forcible means only to compel a minority of the nation to comply with the wishes of the majority. The establishment of prelacy was endured rather than desired by the greater part even of those who submitted to it, and its favourers ought at Jeast to have gained a majority by persuasion, before attempting to convert a nation by force. The motive of the ministers of Charles we are far from disapproving. To attempt to establish episcopacy might be a fair and legitimate object of policy; and sanctioned as the scheme was by an almost unanimous vote of the legislature, and by the submission of the nation, there is reason to believe that in time, and with due management, it might have succeeded. But not even the doctrine of religion, far less its forms or its exterior policy, can be justly or wholesomely forced on a nation by breach of laws and invasion of liberties.

Among many passages in Mr. Sharpe's notes which form interesting and curious illustrations of national manners and individual character, we were particularly interested and amused by the letters of a certain Anne Keith, by courtesy Lady Methven, as wife of Patrick Smytlie, baron of Methven. This lady seems to have been a woman of high spirit, and animated by anti-covenanting zeal as determined in favour of episcopacy as that which many of the ladies of the period entertained in favour of presbytery. Her husband, or, as she affectionately terms him, her heart's keeper,' being in London, this gallant dame herself called together his vassals for the purpose of dispersing a field-conventicle which proposed to meet upon his ground. She marched against them at the head of sixty armed men, accompanied by the laird's brother with drawn sword and cocked pistol; the lady herself with a light-horseman's piece on her left arm, and a drawn tuck in her right hand. The conventicle, about a thousand strong, sent a hundred men to encounter her party, to whom the Amazon declared that she and her followers would 6 ware their lives on them before they should preach in that regality;' and charged them either to fight or fly. Upon the whole matter the covenanters deemed it surest to retreat, and Lady Methven and her band went to the parish church to hear a scared minister preach.'

They have sworn,' she adds, not to stand with such ane affronte, but resolves to come the next Lord's day; and I, in the Lord's strenth, intends to accost them with all that will come to assist us. I have caused


officer warn a solemn court of vassalls, tennants, and all within our power to meet on Thursday, where I intend, if God will, to be present, and there to order them in God and our king's name to convine well armed to the kirkyard on Sabbath morning by eight ours, wher your brother and I, with all our servant men and others we can mak, shall march to them, and, if the God of Heaven will, they shall either fycht, or goe out of our parish; but alesse ! there is no parish about us


[ocr errors]

will doe the like, which discuradges our poor handfull; yett if all the eretors in the parish be loyall and stout, we will mak five hundred men and boys that may carrie armes. I have written to your nevo the tresorer of Edin: to send me twa brasse hagbutts of found, and that with the bearer. If they come against Setterday, I will have them with us. My love, present my humbell dewtie to my Lord Marques and my Lady, lykwayes all your friends, and, my blessed love, comfort yourself in this, if the fanaticks chance to kill me, it shall not be for noucht. I was wounded for our gracious king, and now in the strenth of the Lord God of Heaven, I'll hazard my person with the men I may command, before these rebells rest where ye have power; sore I miss yow, but now mor as ever.'—p. 357.

Her second crusade against the covenanters was as bloodless as the first. She was not herself present but sent the baillie of the regality with her husband's horses to assist the Marquis of Athols Highlanders. There was a long chase, and the horses had a sore tassell among the Ochill-hills; the Highlanders also got sore travail, but were rewarded, for they went laden home with less or more.' The lady urges the dubious expressions of the laws against conventicles which, according to her apprehension, directed the appearance but not the reality of force to be exercised against them.

• It is a grievous matter,' she says, “that we dare not draw their blood, yet must disperse them-how should that be if they come well armed to fight? The acts against them are for and against-riddles indeed not easy to be understood. My love, if every parish were armed, and the stout loyal heads joining, with orders to concur, and liberty to suppress them as enemies to our king and the nation, these vaguing gipsies would settle.'-p. 358.

Though this lady is an ultra-royalist and an enthusiast in her way, we own we give as much credit to Dame Anne Keith for her courage and activity, as we do to Mrs. Hutchinson for her affectionate zeal to her husband and his cause. There are several other letters from her written in the same earnest and determined style. A letter also from the primate Sharp shows how highly he esteemed her

courage and loyalty, which he contrasts with the desperation shown by so many of her sex to tempt their husbands in that evil time when schism, sedition, and rebellion are gloried in, though Christianity does condemn them as the greatest crimes.'

This lady, notwithstanding her spirit and courage, died an early martyr to wounded maternal affection. Her only son, while shooting wild-fowl, was killed by his tutor through an unhappy accident. His mother broke her heart in consequence of this loss : a circumstance which we are rather surprized not to see enumerated in that terrible chapter of the Cameronian biography, entitled • God's judgement on persecutors.' It being (notwithstanding the solemn warning to the contrary afforded in the example of the tower of Siloam) the convenient practice of that sect to term all calamities

IL 3


which happened to befall them or theirs, trials, or at most paternal chastisements; and to ascribe to the direct vengeance of Providence all casualties which happened to their opponents.

We must however leave this ample topic, though not before we have said enough to disoblige both parties. As in these happy days we have neither to fear the repentance-stool of the Kirk, or the boots of the Episcopalian privy-council, we shall endure with much equanimity the harmless thunders with which zealots of either side may reward our critical labours. The balance of guilt, no doubt, inclines heavily on the side of the governors, whose cruel measures drove their unfortunate opponents not only to despair but to madness, and whom we therefore hold responsible for much of the phrenzy which they excited, as a brutal driver is justly considered as answerable for the damage done by an over driven ox. When, however, the question is as to the rationality or decency, much more the sanctity and heroism of the ultra-presbyterians, we confess we could as soon bring ourselves to bow down and worship Apis, if we met him in Smithfield, with half a score of Whitechapel butchers at his heels, foaming, foundering, tossing, and goring whomsoever he encountered, as to reverence the memory of the Cameronian leaders, or consider them as the objects of any feeling warmer than commiseration, and a sense of the humiliating pass to which persecution can reduce men's understandings.

We have not room to enter fully on the second part of Mr. Sharpe's interesting volume. It contains a particular account of the murder of Archbishop Sharp, drawn up by James Russell, one of the assassins. Of this atrocious transaction he writes with much composure, and his account seems to have supplied the materials of Wodrow's narrative. It makes plain one circumstance, that although the opportunity of slaying the bishop strangely and suddenly presented itself, it was a thought which had frequently entered into the mind of more than the desperate man by whom it was finally executed. For not only the assassin Mitchel, for shooting at him, suffered under circumstances which rendered even his condemnation illegal, (such was the dexterity of the government in putting themselves in the wrong,) but moreover a rabble in the streets of Edinburgh, headed by a pious sister, the wife of a deceased divine, made an attempt to strangle this obnoxious prelate. He then escaped,' says Kirkton, only some of them reproached him, calling him Judas and traitor, and one of them laid her hand upon his neck, and told him that neck must pay for it ere all was done, and in this guessed right.' (p. 945.) And Russell frankly informs us, not only that it was by many of the Lord's people and ministers judged a duty long since not to suffer such a person to live, “but that he himself had been at meetings with several godly people in other places of the kingdom, who not only judged it their duty to take that wretch's life,


but had essayed it twice before;' and he mentions that he had experienced outlettings of the spirit, which had induced him to renew his engagements against papists, prelates, and indulgences, and to be lieve that he was to be an actor in cutting off some powerful enemy.

The manner of this singular tragedy is minutely told. David Hackstoun of Rathillet, and John Balfour of Kinloch, called Burley, with Russell the narrator, and nine other persons of inferior rank, all well-armed, rendezvoused, at Gilston Muir, in the county of Fife, in order to search for and slay a magistrate called Carmichael, who had been active in levying the fines on the non-conformists. They had been encouraged to clearness in this matter' by one Alexander Smith, a weaver at the Struther-dyke,' a very godly man, who desired them all to go forward, seeing that God's glory was the only motive that was moving them to offer themselves to act for his broken down work.' John Balfour, (Burley,) afterwards their leader in the action, had his own inspirations besides the strong encouragement which he derived from the respectable authority of the weaver, ' for be, being at Paris his uncle's house, intending towards the Highlands because of the violent rage in Fife, was pressed in spirit to return; and he inquiring the Lord's mind anent it, got that word born in upon him, Go and prosper. So he coming from prayer, wondering what it could mean, went again and got it confirmed by that scripture, Go, have not I sent you? whereupon he durst no more question, but presently returned.p. 413. Nor was James Russell, the narrator, without his precise revelations for guidance in this matter. It had been born in upon his mind, during several great out-lettings of the spirit, about a fortnight before, that the Lord would employ him in some special service—that some great man, an enemy to the kirk, was to be cut off. He could not rid his mind of the thoughts of Nero, and asked where he could find the Scripture respecting that tyrant. It does not appear that his companions could point out the text which be looked for concerning Nero; but the impression was so strong as to induce him to enter into a new covenant with the Lord, and to renew all his former vows and engagements against papists, and prelates, and indulgences.

The minds of this devout party being in such an intlamed state they prosecuted their search of Carmichael. This man had left off the sport of hunting in which they hoped to have surprized him, having obtained some hint of their kind dispositions towards him. But as the disappointed assassins were about to disperse, a boy, dispatched by the good-wife of Baldinny, brought them unexpected intelligence.

'Gentlemen, there is the bishop's coach, our good-wife desired me to tell you; which they seeing betwixt Ceres and Blebo-hole, said, Truly, this is of God, and it seemeth that God hath delivered him into

L L 4

[ocr errors]

our hands; let us not draw back, but pursue; for all looked on it, con: sidering the former circumstances, as a clear call from God to fall upon him.'--p. 414.

The command of this party of enthusiasts was offered to Hackstoun of Ratbillet, as the man of highest rank. But as he declined the office, that the glory of the action might not be sullied by its being ascribed to a private grudge wbich existed betwixt him and the prelate, it was tendered to and accepted by the famous John Balfour of Burley, who gave the word of command, saying, • " Gentlemen, follow me:" Whereupon all the nine (two of them had accidentally separated from the party) rode what they could to Magusmuir, the hill at the nearest, and Andrew Henderson riding afore, being best mounted, and saw them when he was on the top of the hill, and all the rest came up and rode very hard, for the coach was driving hard ; and being come near Magus, George Fleman and James Russell riding into the town, and James asked at the goodman if that was the bishop's coach ? He fearing, did not tell, but one of his servants, a woman, came running to him and said it was the bishop's coach, and she seemed to be overjoyed; and James riding towards the coach, to be sure, seeing the bishop looking out at the door, cast away his cloak and cried, Judas be taken! The bishop cried to the coachman to drive ; he firing at him, crying to the rest to come up, and the rest throwing away their cloaks except Ratbillet, ... fired into the coach driving very fast about half a mile, in which time they fired several shots in at all parts of the coach, and Alexander Henderson seeing once Wallace having a cock'd carrabine going to fire, gript him in the neck, and threw him down and

ulled it out of his hand. Andrew Henderson outran the coach, and stroke the horse in the face with his sword; and James Russell coming to the postiling, commanded him to stand, which he refusing, he stroke him on the face and cut down the side of his shine, and striking at the horse next brake his sword, and gripping the ringeses of the foremost horse in the farthest side : George Fleman fir'd a pistol in at the north side of the coach beneath his left arm, and saw his daughter dight of the furage; and riding forward, gripping the horses' bridles in the nearest side and held them still, George Balfour fired likewise, and James Russell got George Fleman's sword and lighted off his horse, and ran to the coach door, and desired the bishop to come forth, Judas. He answered, he never wronged man: James declared before the Lord that it was no particular interest, nor yet for any wrong that he had done to him, but because he had betrayed the church as Judas, and had wrung, hands these eighteen or nineteen years in the blood of the saints, but especially at Pentland; and Mr. Guthrie and Mr. Mitchell and James Learmonth ; and they were sent by God to execute his vengeance on him this day, and desired him to repent and come forth: and John Balfour on horseback said, Sir, God is our witness that it is not for any wrong thou hast done to me, nor yet for any fear of what thou could do to me, but because thou hast been a murderer of many a poor soul in the kirk of Scotland, and a betrayer of the church, and an open enemy and persecutor of Jesus Christ and his members, whose blood thou hast shed like water on the earth, and therefore thou shalt die! and fired a



« PreviousContinue »