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A history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) online

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in accordance with the Word of God, " ye are to judge." The
Book of Discipline recommends private admonition first, then
public denunciation if the sinner persists. But what is " sin " ?
Of that the preachers, " the prophets," were to be judges, and their
inspiration usually led them to denounce James's poHcy, or " sin,"
from the pulpit. James's policy (if Pourie was his envoy) was
sinful enough. But the old claim to deliver inspired denunciations
of the political tendencies of rulers is not compatible with the
existence of the State. The preachers erected an wiperium in im-
perio. Within a few months James dealt a heavy blow at the
interfering system of the Kirk.

The Assembly then passed to its functions as the War Office of
the period. Parochial Captains and county Colonels were to be
selected ; there were to be monthly drillings, or at least musters ;
corslets, muskets, and pikes were to be prepared. Later in the
year the Kirk, or some of its representatives, were engaged in a
scheme which- would have turned these musters and muskets against
the king. The financial supplies, the Assembly insisted, must be
raised from the estates of the Catholic exiles. It was decided to
keep a day of humiliation, Mr Davidson presiding. The enor-
mities of the ministers were next dwelt upon : they mainly arose
from the system of patronage, which probably introduced ministers
*' in gorgeous and light apparel," given to dancing, card-playing, and
hazard, while others kept taverns, were factors or traders. It is
unlikely that these joyous or commercial spirits entered the Kirk
by any other door than that of patronage. Probably they did not
assiduously attend the General Assemblies, where we hear little or
nothing of votes given in the Court interest. The day of humilia-
tion was March 30. With sighing and moaning " the Kirk re-
sounded, so that it might worthily have been called Bochim."


Before leaving Bochim the Assembly held up their hands, "to
testify their entering in a new league with God " ; and only one
person " despised that exercise " — namely, Mr Thomas Buchanan,
who went not unpunished, for in the end he was killed by a fall
from his horse. The renewal of the Covenant was recommended
to the Kirk at large.

These impressive scenes displayed the sincere belief of the
Assembly that they directly represented the people of Israel.
Scotland was their Promised Land, to extirpate Amalekites was
their bounden duty. The more popular preachers were prophets,
like Samuel and Elijah : the king was usually cast for the part of
Saul, Ahab, or Jeroboam, according to circumstances. The queen
was, more or less, like the daughter of Herodias • three ministers
were sent to point out that she and her ladies were too fond of
dancing. As to the general public, family prayers were either
neglected or directed by " cooks, stewards, jackmen, and suchlike."
There were still hoHdays, bonfires, pilgrimages, and singing of carols
at Christmas-tide. The Sabbath was not devoutly kept : profane
swearing was too much exercised; there was "a flood of bloodshed
and deadly feuds " ; sexual morality was at a low ebb ; and rents
were much too high, while there was " extreme thraldom in ser-
vices " — that is, labour- rents. Pipers and fiddlers and sturdy
beggars were numerous. Justice was corrupt, and lay abbots,
priors, and " dumb bishops " were allowed to vote as the spiritual
estate in Parliament. The Court of Session was amenable to

Such is a sketch of the condition of Scotland in the year 1596,
when the Kirk was now come to her perfection. " And here,"
says Calderwood in despair, " end all the sincere Assemblies General
of the Kirk of Scotland, enjoying the liberty of the Gospel under
the free government of Christ ! " " Too soon despairer ! " The
Kirk was again to be terrible as an army with banners, till Oliver
Cromwell sent an ofificer of hussars to turn the General Assembly
into the street. (Calderwood, v. 394-411.)

While James was making as fair weather as might be with the
Brethren, he had an envoy, Fowlis, at the Court of Elizabeth. But
negotiations were clouded by Buccleuch's rescue of Kinmont Willie
from bonds in Carlisle Castle. This joyous feat of arms is best
described in the famous ballad, however much or however little
it may owe to the touch of Sir Walter Scott. Kinmont Willie,.

KINMONT WILLIE (1596). 407

to be brief, had been captured by a large force of Englishmen as
he rode to his Liddesdale home on the evening of a Warden court.
A truce existed, by Border law, till sunrise of the day after the meet-
ing ; but " the false Salkeld," Lord Scrope's deputy, had seized
Willie contrary to law and custom. This must have been in March
1596, for Buccleuch's remonstrances are mentioned by a corres-
pondent of Bowes on April i.^ Remonstrance with Scrope was in
vain, Willie was destined to be hanged at Hairibee ; but Buccleuch
had taken his measures. The Castle of Carlisle was strong, the
town populous, the position girdled by Esk and Eden. But
Buccleuch determined on entering, by a night camisade, a fortress
which had repelled the war-leaders of the Bruce. His kinsmen
dwelt hard by his house of Branxholm on Teviot, four miles from
Hawick. Not a mile farther down the river stands the fortalice of
Goldielands ; two miles across the hill behind Branxholm, on a cliff
above a burn that flows into Borthwick Water, is the keep of Wat
Scott of Harden. From Teviotdale, Borthwick, and Slitrig w^aters
the W^arden called in two hundred riders of his clan and of the
Armstrongs. From Liddesdale, as they rode south, the Border
prickers came in, bearing scaling-ladders, crowbars, hammers, and
axes. Apparently they rested at Langholm, and started thence
on the following night. The Grahams of the Debatable Land
were in the plot. The night was mirk with torrents of rain, but,
starting from Langholm, they knew every foot of the way, splashed
through Esk, swam their horses over Eden, — " The water was great,
and mickle o' spate."

" He's either himsel' a devil frae hell,
Or else his mother a witch maun be.
I wadna hae ridden that wan water
For a' the govvd o' Chrislcntie ! "

says Lord Scrope in the ballad.

At Caday burn Buccleuch dismounted most of his men and
led them to the castle wall. The ladders were short, but they
found an entrance, seized the sentinels, forced open a postern,
and while Buccleuch kept watch in the court a band broke into
the Kinmont's chamber, bore him off, ironed as he was, and the
trumpets of Buccleuch sounded " Rise for Branxholm readily."
Scrope, knowing nothing as to the numbers of the assailing force,
preferred the better part of valour ; Willie roared his good night
to the Warden, and at the first smith's bothy on the Scottish side


was liberated from his "heavy spurs." EHzabeth of course was
enraged, and demanded that Buccleuch, the most popular man
in Scotland, should be surrendered to her. It is usually said
that he was, and that he had an interview with her majestj', but,
after a brief period of courteous warding in St Andrews Castle,
James released the gallant captor of Carlisle (November lo).^
Buccleuch was needed on the Border,* and he had only righted
by the strong hand a wrong which the strong hand had done.
By way of raising a counter-grievance, James complained that he
and his mother had been insulted in Spenser's "Faery Queen,"
but Edmund Spenser escaped trial and punishment.^*'

At this time our old acquaintance, Archibald Douglas, was in
trouble on a charge of trafficking with Bothwell. All his craft
had not availed to keep him in that singular diplomatic situation
of a semi-official envoy of Scotland, paid by England. ^'^ We hear
little more of this versatile and unredeemed miscreant, who dwindles
into a spy of the Cecils.

With the warm weather of early summer the Catholic exiles and
their friends began to bestir themselves. Lady Huntly was at Court,
and, no doubt, was working privately on the king and queen. From
Augsburg a Mr Anderson sent a warning letter to the preachers
(April 27, 1596). "The storm was imminent," intriguers were
busy at Rome, Walter Lindsay had been sent to Spain. But the
Spaniards objected that, after sending large sums in gold, they had
not received their money's worth from Huntly and his allies. They
blamed Bruce, who, as we saw, declared that Huntly could not be
trusted with the gold, and Bruce was now under a cloud. In fact
none of them, nor any Scot of any party, could be trusted with
money. Bruce himself was a double spy, as occasion ministered
opportunity. One of the Lethingtons (author of the MS. Apology
for his father, the great Secretary) was travelling in Italy on treason-
able business, which he had already worked from the house of his
father-in-law. Lord Herries, dealing especially with Cecil, an English

This Cecil, a secular priest, and a spy of his namesakes, the
statesmen Cecils, was, in fact, accompanying and counter-working
Ogilvie of Pourie. In September 1594 Pourie had been denounced
as a papist and rebel. ^^ Yet in the years 1595-96 he appears in

* He was later warded in Berwick for other reasons. Still later he had an
interview with Elizabeth on his way to fight in the Low Countries.


the Low Countries and Italy calling himself accredited envoy of
James to the Pope, Spain, and idolaters in general. To the
Pope he presented what he called James's petitions : James asked
for 2000 gold crowns a-month that he might put down his rebels,
and 4000 a-month after he had professed Catholicism. Father
Tyrie plainly said that James's promises in the way of religion
were all " invention and deceit." Another paper was designed
to show, by James's past conduct, that he was no enemy of
Catholics. In fact the paper justified all the suspicions which
the preachers entertained about the king. But the statements them-
selves have a very suspicious air. James must have known, for
instance, that his father was not "Earl of Lennox," and was not
murdered by order of Elizabeth ! Yet Pourie makes James talk
thus in his Letter of Credit. Indeed Pourie made so many absurd
and contradictory proposals that he was not trusted at Rome, nor
in Spain. He was accompanied by the secular priest, named Cecil,
already mentioned as a spy of his namesakes in England, and Cecil
wrote a tract against Pourie's statements in favour of James. Pourie
was imprisoned at Barcelona, and the Catholics of the English and
Spanish faction had a bitter controversy among themselves over the
whole set of transactions. Cecil (the priest-spy) maintained that
Pourie's letter of credit from James was either forged or obtained
by fraud. Pourie declared later that he had no commission, and
erred only from trop de zUe. Both Pourie and Cecil became spies
of the Cecils, and in May the Ministers of Elizabeth seem to
have received the papers of both intriguers. On July 13 Bowes
enclosed copies to Cecil, with a letter from the Spanish Ambassador
at Rome to the King of Spain. ^* It is not easy to determine the
amount, if any, of James's share in these futile plots, but if, in
despair of Elizabeth, he was promising to Spain and the Pope his
conversion to their creed, he was certainly deceiving these Powers.*
Probably Pourie had forged his letters of credit, or had amplified
something of milder character.^^ The documents, as any reader
must see, are impudent impostures as they stand.

In any case, the elder Cecil's suspicions were aroused. In a
letter to his son. Sir Robert (July 10), he speaks of the Octavians
as "hollow papists," and advises that Bowes should ferret out
things concerning them by aid of the preachers.^^ This was written

* See a letter of Pourie to James, written in 1601, at end of chapter xviii.,
p. 496.


after Cecil had got wind of the proceedings of Pourie, which were
communicated to James. (By October Pourie appears to have been
in alliance with Cecil.) The king, of course, denied that he had
any share in Pourie's enterprise (August 3), and declared that,
to his knowledge, Huntly had not returned to Scotland. Lady
Huntly, however, was making suit for her husband.^'^ By August
10 Bowes announced Huntly's arrival: the Kirk was greatly dis-
satisfied. Robert Cecil advised Bowes that, if Huntly was likely
to come into the king's peace, he had better invite Elizabeth to
mediate for him (August 27). The ministers began to preach
against Huntly, who, by returning without licence, had certainly
broken the compact ; though it was whispered that James had
licensed both him and Angus. ^^ The excitement of the ministers
on the reappearance of an idolater, the murderer of the Bonny
Earl, may be imagined. On October 19 Lady Huntly proposed
certain conditions to the synod of Moray. Her lord offered
himself for trial, and, if convicted, would " underly the censures
of your wisdoms, king, and Council." He would give security
for his behaviour ; would banish from his presence all Jesuits and
notorious papists ; would listen to the arguments of the preachers,
and be converted, if he could; would keep "an ordinar minister"
in his house ; and he begged for a reasonable time wherein to
be conscientiously converted.

On October 20 the Commissioners of the General Assembly and
the synods met at Edinburgh, and sent a circular to all the presby-
teries. The most dangerous and threatening fact had been a
decision of Council at Falkland on August 12.^^ It had been
decided that Huntly should not receive licence for his return. But
James, in the exercise of his clemency, would draw up conditions :
if Huntly accepted these the country would be free from the dangers
incident on the exile and discontent of the Catholic earls. Seton,
the President, pleaded in favour of this plan : Andrew Melville
burst in uncalled, and charged everybody with " high treason both
against Christ and the king." James turned Andrew out, and won
over James Melville and the other brethren present. "The Estates
conclude that, the king and Kirk being satisfied, it were best to call
them " (the exiles) " home, and that his majesty should hear their
offers for that effect." ^o Early in October the Melvilles and the
others again approached James. The younger Melville spoke
temperately, but the irascible Andrew " doucht nocht abyd it " —


could not endure it. He seized James by the sleeve, " he laid his
hands on an anointed king," and called his sovereign " God's silly
vassal." There were in Scotland, Mr Melville observed with much
vehemence, two kings, Christ and James. Now the preachers were
the deputies of the former and superior monarch, and James must
attend to them, and not to his " devilish and most pernicious " lay

James had not much nerve when confronted by this kind of
violence, as Fontaine had observed ten years earlier. He ought to
have called the Guard (if he had any) to remove Mr Melville, but
he truckled. A king should not permit himself to be practically
collared in his own house by a furious college don. But his
majesty, according to James Melville, promised that the exiles
should not be heard till they left the country, and should not come
into his peace till they satisfied the Kirk.-^

It was in consequence of all these proceedings that the Com-
missioners of the General Assembly met in Edinburgh on October
20. They recited the circumstances, warned the country, ordered a
day of public humiliation in the first week of December ; decided
that the excommunication of the earls should be published ; and
established a permanent Committee of Public Safety in Edinburgh.
They also had what to modern minds seems the extravagant
insolence to summon the President, Seton, Lord Urquhart, before
the synod of Lothian. - Whether these things were, or were not,
within the powers of the Kirk, ecclesiastical lawyers may decide.
But the proceedings, legally justifiable or not, were absolutely
unendurable, and how Cromwell would have dealt with the officers
of the General Assembly we can readily guess. James was not
Oliver. He sent Seton and others to treat with some of the
preachers, in place of warding them in Blackness. He offered to
show the exiles no favour till they had satisfied the Kirk. This offer
the Commissioners of the Kirk graciously accepted. Next he
humbly inquired whether, if the exiles did satisfy the Kirk, he
might be allowed to extend to them his favour? The Commis-
sioners answered, No, he might not. The law of God and Parlia-
ment had adjudged the exiles to death. But the bosom of the Kirk
would he open to the repentant. Apparently, if repentant, the
exiles might die, free from excommunication. Mr Tytler takes
this sense of the decision.^^ If he is right, the Kirk was, in
modern phrase, " rather above herself."


James also was in an exalted frame of mind. There was at
this time a St Andrews minister named Black, who is said to
have caused a moral reformation in a city which sadly needed
it. On November i Bowes reported to Cecil that Mr Black had
used in a sermon offensive phrases about Queen Elizabeth. The
preachers and the English embassy were usually close allies, but
Mr Black's words could not be passed over. The event at once
irritated James, and afforded him a handle against the Brethren.
His annoyance was freely expressed, and on November 9 four
preachers were sent for to converse with him.-* The preachers
remonstrated: James's "common talk was inventions against the
ministers and their doctrine." Whether this meant that James
invented stories, or believed the inventions of others, the phrase
was uncivil. They also complained of his favour to the exiles,
and to Lady Huntly, who had been invited to the baptism of
the queen's daughter, Elizabeth, later the beautiful unhappy Queen
of Bohemia. Further, the child's governess was to be Lady
Livingstone, a Catholic, whom the Kirk meant to excommunicate.

James replied. There could be no peace between him and the
Kirk " till the marches of their jurisdiction were rade " or defined.
They must not preach on affairs of State. The General Assembly
must not be convoked except by his authority. This appears to
have been the actual state of the laws since 1592. It was lawful
for the Kirk every year, and oftener as occasion arose, to hold
General Assemblies, provided that the king or his Commissioners
with them, before each Assembly dissolved, " nominate time and place,
ivhen and where the 7ie.xt General Assembly shall be holdenP ^^
Thus the preachers could not legally spring an Assembly on James,
and perhaps raise levies of armed men. Thirdly, James required
that Acts of the Assembly, as of Parliament, must receive his rati-
fication. Fourthly, the Kirk must not meddle with cases which
fell under the civil or criminal law of the country. He granted
nothing as to the grievances about the earls and the ladies. The
preachers replied, and sent some of their number to study the legis-
lation affecting the Kirk. That day (November 1 1 ) the preachers
learned that Mr Black of St Andrews was called before the king
and Council for "infamous speeches" in his sermons during
October. As Aston reported to Bowes, Black had styled Eliz-
abeth an atheist; Bowes had remonstrated, and Black was sum-
moned.^^ He had called all kings " devil's bairns," insulted the


queen, and so forth. If correctly reported, Black had certainly
gone to great lengths. On November 12" the whole Brethren of
the Council " (the sixteen members, apparently, of the Kirk's Com-
mittee of Public Safety) summoned Lady Huntly, bade the presbytery
of Stirling excommunicate Lady Livingstone, and decided that Black
should decline the jurisdiction of the king and Council. Probably
the Brethren were within their legal rights on the first two points,
considering the penal laws against Catholics. By November 16
they had reduced James to promise " to purge the land from all
papists and papistrie, and to suffer none, in whatsomever degree,
to be of another religion that he was of," whatever that may have
been. As to Black, James "thought not much of that matter";
only let Mr Black " compeare " and prove his innocence, satisfying
the English Ambassador. " But take heed, sirs," said James, " that
ye decline not my jurisdiction ; for if ye do so, it will be worse."
The Brethren, then (November 17), wrote out Black's declinature
of jurisdiction, and signed it, all of them.

Whether the Brethren were now technically within their legal
rights, as at that hour existing, is a question for legists. Dr
M'Crie, whose sympathies were on the side of the Kirk, has dis-
cussed the problem in reference to an earlier declinature, practical
if not explicit, by Andrew Melville (1584). Others, Dr M'Crie
remarks, had declined, in secular matters, the jurisdiction of the
Council, and appealed to that of the Lords of Session. The case
is not parallel, of course, to the old claim of criminal clerks to be
tried by courts spiritual, say, on charges of murder or theft. Black
only appealed to trial by his brethren, as a court of first instanceP
Dr M'Crie did not uphold the theory that a preacher, if acquitted
by his brethren of treasonable phrases in a sermon, was free from
trial thereafter by the civil magistrate on the same count. Such a
claim, says the learned author, would have " deserved to be re-
sisted and reprobated." The question, however, ought first to
have been heard before an ecclesiastical tribunal. If they, through
the influence of undue partiality, should justify the accused
" erroneously, it was still competent for the civil magistrate to
proceed against him."^^ "Such was the full amount of the claim
made by the Church at this time."

This is vastly well, but who was to determine whether the ecclesi-
astical court, in acquitting a preacher accused of treasonable or
libellous remarks in his sermons, decided " erroneously " or not ?


To judge by the language used in Mr Black's declinature, and
indorsed by the signatures of many leading preachers, the ecclesi-
astical court in such cases was incapable of judging " erroneously."
Dr M'Crie knew that "undue partiality" was possible in a tribunal
of ministers, and was aware that presbyteries and Assemblies (like
General Councils, in the Anglican theory) " may err, and have
erred." The civil courts, in Dr M'Crie's view, might (in such
instances) revise the judgment and correct the error, and he appears
to hold that the Kirk of 1596 was of the same opinion. Now it is
true that Mr Black declined the jurisdiction of the Council, " at
least in the first instance." ^^ It seems to be, at least, arguable that
Black had a right to decline secular judges "in the first instance."^"
But if we read on, we shall find the words " in the first instance "
are a mere technicality or " hedge," for the language of the declin-
ature indicates the opinion that there could be no "second in-
stance," that nobody could pretend that the decision of the ecclesi-
astical court might be " erroneous," and that, if dissatisfied by the
decision of the Kirk, the Government had no appeal. Black and
his allies maintained that he was the " ambassador " of our blessed
Lord ; that " the Word " contained his " only instructions " ; that,
when preaching, he " cannot fall in the reverence of any civil law
of man, but in so far as I shall be found to have passed the com-
pass of my instructions." Now, this question "cannot be judged
. . . but by the prophets " — that is, the other ministers. There-
fore " of necessity the prophets " (in this case the Fife presbytery)
" must first declare whether I have keeped the bounds of my direc-
tions before I come to be judged by your majesty's laws for my
offence." ^^

It is plain that if the prophets are the first judges in such a case
as Black's (and this he asserts), there is no court that can revise the
prophets' verdict. Neither the Council nor the Lords of Session
were inspired ; in fact, part of the charge against Black was that he
had denounced both courts as corrupt, and as cormorants. His
conduct " cannot be judged except by the prophets." The words
as to " the first instance " are therefore meaningless, if the presby-
tery acquits the accused. In this essential respect the claims of the
preachers in 1596 differ from the opinion of Dr M'Crie in 181 9.
Dr M'Crie admits the possibility of error in the verdict, say, of
the Fife presbytery. Mr Black and his allies do not admit the

Online LibraryAndrew LangA history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) → online text (page 43 of 60)