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possibility of error. The prophets (the presbytery) are inspired, and


(in this matter) are infallible representatives of the apostles, and
inherit directly the apostolic privilege of judgment.

For our present historical purposes it does not matter whether the
charges against Black were well bottomed on evidence or not. It
does not matter whether the state of the law as it stood justified his
declinature or not. Nor are we concerned with the fact that Black
would have had no more chance of a fair trial before the Council
than the king would have received unbiassed justice from the
prophets. Historically we only try to show what the claims of
the Brethren actually were. In such cases as Black's they would
be judged by the prophets in the first instance, and, by the nature
of their contention, there could be no second instance. Therefore
the Kirk was the ruler of the State. That James and his Council
placed themselves legally in the wrong during these proceedings
is highly probable, or certain. But our object is to explain the
precise attitude towards civil jurisdiction assumed by the preachers.
Black's declinature was given in on November 18. Cessford and
the bold Buccleuch, men of this world, were among the Council.
The minutes of the day record that Black "alleged that none
should be judges of matters delivered in the pulpit but the preachers
and ministers of the Word," and therefore desired to be remitted to
his judge ordinary — namely, his presbytery — to which James must
come as a Christian, not as a king. He admitted that James might
judge in matters of treason, but the Church must judge in the first

The Brethren now (November 20) sent the declinature to all the
presbyteries, with a letter inviting the other prophets to sign it.
This irritated James, and the Committee of Presbyterian Public
Safety appointed a General Assembly to be held in January (Novem-
ber 24). This they did without the presence of the king or his
Commissioner, contrary to the law of 1592, or so it seems to the
present writer. They also sent four of their number to ask James
to leave off " pursuing " Black till after this General Assembly.^^
On the same day the Privy Council declared the Committee of
Public Safety (the permanent session of the sixteen Commissioners
of the General Assembly) to be illegal. They meant, by sending
round the declinature for signature, to " raise trouble, sedition, and
insurrection." The Commissioners must therefore return to their
neglected flocks within twenty-four hours. They must desist from
calling unlawful convocations of barons and others."* The Com-


missioners refused to obey this order. James weakly permitted
them to remain and split straws of legal delicacy. They would
defer the declinature if James would postpone pursuit of Black till
after the meeting of the Assembly. On November 30 the king and
Council unanimously voted themselves lawful judges in the case of
Black. But on the same day Black was again summoned, the
summons being " slanderous, blasphemous, and malicious," says

The "convocations" assembled by the preachers without royal
licence were pronounced seditious. The Committee of Public
Safety (the sixteen Commissioners of the Kirk) were bidden to
leave Edinburgh in twenty-four hours. In reply they ordered the
preachers to " deal mightily by the Word " against the king's pro-
clamation. The preachers are "answerable" to Christ alone, "and
not to be controlled or discharged by any other." Here is a plain
proof that their verdicts could not be revised by any lay court. -^^
On November 29 the Sixteen had drawn up articles to be presented
to James. Their general purpose was to remit the matters under
consideration to the General Assembly. On November 30 Black
put in a second declinature, full of Scriptural texts. James once
more tried to escape the battle by a feeble personal compromise,
which the Commissioners refused. He would pardon Black, if
Black would come and " resolve his majesty of the truth of all
the points libelled, by the declaration of his own conscience." ^^
In fact James had practically truckled, and renounced his cause,
when some of his advisers put a little heart into him, and he sent
to Black bidding him come and confess " an offence done to the
queen at least, and so receive pardon." Black appealed to tes-
timonials which he had received from the city and University of
St Andrews, and would " confess no fault, how light soever." ^^ On
December 2 the Council found Black guilty in his absence, left the
penalty to the king, and meanwhile ordered him to pass " be north
the North Water," on pain of outlawry if he disobeyed. ^'^

Even after this " truces " and negotiations went on, James trying
to have peace with a shred of honour, which he could not keep if
he did not punish Black in the terms of the decision of December
2. The President, Seton, was blamed for enlightening James on
the rather obvious point that his jurisdiction over the Kirk was not
secured unless Black was put to some penalty. ^^ All this while
fasts were being kept, and the people were being excited by

RIOT OF DECEMBER 17 (1596). 417

sermons ; " the doctrine sounded powerfully ; " in fact there was
organised agitation (Sunday, December 12). On December 13
James announced his intention to cut off the supplies of the
preachers, by refusing their stipends to such as would not sign a
" band " which was to be submitted to them.^*^ The Sixteen were
desiring the presbytery of Edinburgh to excommunicate " such
persons of highest rank as are known, or may be found, to be
malicious enemies against the ministry and cause of Jesus Christ."'*^
This was a strong measure. The presbytery might choose to think
the king and Council malicious enemies, and might deliver them,
and all who harboured them, over to Satan. But now the sixteen
Commissioners were officially summoned to leave Edinburgh within
twenty-four hours. They obeyed, leaving a manifesto behind them.
James once more tried to negotiate, but the Edinburgh preachers
would not parley till the Commissioners were publicly recalled.

James at this time appears to have been a mere shuttlecock.
When in presence of the Commissioners he looked on all sides
for an evasion. When surrounded by his Council he adopted
vigorous measures which next day he tried to water down. But
on December 17 events occurred which at once forced his hand
and gave him an opportunity. For three weeks the pulpits had
rung with "the doctrine," the populace was at once puzzled and
irritated — the Presbyterian populace, for we learn nothing about the
Catholic populace, which Davidson dreaded worse than the Court.
Probably " the rascal multitude " (earnest professors apart) had no
very fixed theological tenets, but was merely "against the Govern-
ment." If the king had the upper hand, they would be against
him. If the preachers " ruled the roast," as the saying was, and
interfered with markets and holidays, the multitude would be against
the preachers. On this occasion the populace was on the side of
the " prophets." It has been said that the " Cubiculars," gentlemen
of the Household, hated the Octavians for their economical meas-
ures. But they naturally did not love the precise. They therefore
circulated rumours — on one hand, that the lives of the Octavians
were in danger from the citizens ; on the other, that the Octavians
were the causes of the ill-treatment of the Kirk. Twenty-four sub-
stantial burgesses, the story went, were to be expelled from the
good town. News of a private intrigue, by a "macer" for banish-
ing a bookseller, reached Balcanquhel, or Balcalquall, the preacher,
who preached a sermon on the subject. Bruce next held what is

VOL. II. 2 D


now styled " an indignation neeting," in the " Little Kirk," where
he had an audience of barons and other gentlemen.

This meeting was a "convention," not a congregation. Bal-
canquhel " showed that he had a warrant from the Kirk to con-
vene them," and such conventions, gathered by warrants from
the Kirk, for political purposes and without royal authority, the
king reckoned illegal. Bruce directed the Assembly " to hold
up their hands, vow and swear to defend the present state of
religion against all opponents whomsoever."*^ Among those pre-
sent, Bowes writes, was the great Maclean, he of the hauberk
and the battle-axe, the hero of Glenrinnes. The meeting deputed
the fierce Lord Lindsay and others to visit James, who was sit-
ting with the judges in the Tolbooth. During their absence
Cranstoun, a preacher, read to the angry crowd the story of
Haman and Mordecai, "and such other places of Scripture."
The king received the deputation with courtesy, he declares; but
they went back to their allies discontented, and, according to
Spottiswoode, numbers of people were at this tmie thronging un-
mannerly into the king's presence. The multitude was great,
armed, perplexed, and unruly. How dense was the throng we
may gather from the proceedings of Maclean of Duart. " Hear-
ing the tumult kindling in the streets, he sought access to the
king for the defence of his person, which he could not attain,"
says Bowes (December 21). Lachlan was no weakling, but he
could not force a way through the rioters. He was not timid,
but he deemed the situation so grave that he rode post-haste to
Argyll in Stirling, apparently thinking that Clan Gilzean and Clan
Diarmaid were needed for the royal rescue. These facts, neglected
by our historians, prove that there was a veritable appearance of
danger, which the Presbyterian writers endeavour to deny.*^

Spottiswoode, later no Presbyterian, describes a scene of up-
roar : " some cried to arm, others to bring out Haman " ; and
the tumult was only stilled by a man Wat, who with a guard of
craftsmen kept the mob from assaulting the door of the Tol-
booth. Sir Alexander Home, too, the Provost, rose from a bed
of sickness, and his eloquence had the pacifying effect of a vir
pietate gravis. Calderwood admits that "two or three" came to
the Tolbooth yelling for Octavians to be delivered to them. He
also says that the nobles and gentlemen in the Kirk went out in
armour, which was not usually worn in church. The armour may


have been donned by the town, as James Melville says, after a cry
of a popish massacre was raised ; for there was a report that Errol
was approaching in force, and other wild rumours.*'' Mar went to
the churchyard, where he and Lindsay wrangled. It is certain that
there was a hubbub, and that the godly were in arms, with Lindsay
at their head. The immediate cause was the sermon of Bal-
canquhel and the action of Bruce. Less than all this was enough
to alarm and irritate James. He bade the discontented nobles send
in their grievances in writing, and, the uproar being ended, went to
Holyrood with the city magistrates. About five o'clock a deputation
came to Holyrood, coolly bidding James dismiss his Ministers, but
got no answer. The king, " being misinformed that the ministers
had stirred up the town to that tumult, was in a great rage that
night agamst them and the town." This is not very surprising ;
"the doctrine had been sounded mightily" for weeks, and sermons
less numerous had caused tumults much more dangerous in times

Next morning (December 18) the noisy townsfolk learned that
the Court had withdrawn to the Palace of Linlithgow. James met
Maclean and Argyll on his way as they returned from Stirling. A
royal proclamation, delivered at the cross, damped the civic ardour.
James announced that a treasonable sermon had been preached at
St Giles's ; an assembly of nobles, barons, and others convoked ;
that the ministers and gentlemen had broken in on the king with
violent and seditious discourses ; that most of the burgesses,
*' hounded out " by the preachers, had treasonably armed them-
selves, and endangered the lives of his peaceful majesty and others.
The Court of Session and the Court were therefore removed from
Edinburgh ; he bade strangers in the town depart in six hours, and
prohibited them from convocatmg anywhere by persuasion of the
preachers or others.**' This measure terrified the burgesses with fear
of loss of business, caused by the withdrawal of the courtiers, and
of all who sought the town on legal affairs. The intrepid Mr
Robert Bruce, as indomitable as his royal namesake, did not despair
of the Kirk. We have seen that for some time the practical head
of the almost Royal House of Hamilton, a house which had long
wavered between Church and Kirk, was a true blue Presbyterian.
He it was who had thrice ingeminated " Then are we all gone,"
when James had whispered that there might be such a thing as
religious toleration. To Lord Hamilton Mr Bruce instantly applied


himself (December i8). He wrote that, after many wrongs, the
retention of stipends, the expulsion of the Sixteen, the warding of
Black, the similar threats against the preachers and " a great
number of our flock," the populace had taken up arms. The com-
motion had been pacified by the preachers (though really the Provost
seems to have deserved the credit). The godly barons and others
"have convened themselves, and taken upon them the patrocinie
and mediation of the Kirk and her cause." Bruce did not add
that the godly barons had convened in arms. " They lack a chief
nobleman to countenance the matter against these councillors, and
with one consent have thought it meet that I should write unto your
lordship." Hamilton was therefore prayed to come, employ his
credit, " and so to receive the honour that God calls unto you."
Four preachers signed the request. If Hamilton had complied he
would have disobeyed the royal proclamation against assemblages
convened by the ministers.

As the letter was on its way (if we believe Spottiswoode and the
' Register of the Privy Council,' for Calderwood does not mention
the circumstance) Mr John Welsh preached in St Giles's. This
celebrated saint, the husband of Knox's daughter, Elizabeth, and
an ancestor of Mrs Thomas Carlyle, " did rail pitifully against the
king, saying that he was possessed with a devil." He used the
favourite commonplace of the Scottish Liberals : the king was like
an insane father of a family, whom his sons might dutifully disarm
and tie hand and foot. Mr Welsh in early youth had been a Border
reiver, and was of a high temper. According to Spottiswoode (iii.
34), Hamilton received the bearer of Bruce's letter well, and re-
turned the original by the bearer. This, as we shall later see*'^ in
the case of Gowrie and Logan of Restalrig, w^as the usual precaution
in cases of treasonable conspiracy. Had Hamilton been daring
and ambitious, he might probably have overpowered James at Lin-
lithgow, though Bruce suggested no such measure. But, on the
other hand, he had a copy made of the letter, a copy " vitiated and
adulterated." In this copy the rioters were said to have been
"animated, no doubt, by the Word and motion of God's Spirit."
The phrase of Bruce was, " the people, animated as effeirs, partly by
the Word " (the preaching ?) " and violence of the course " (the king's
proceedings), " took arms." Where Bruce wrote that Hamilton was
wanted " to countenance the msilter against these councillors ," the copy
omitted "these councillors." The clause "employ your credit" was


also omitted. Bruce's averment that the preachers had quelled the
tumult (as they did, according to Melville) was also left out. As all
these changes intensified the nature of the invitation, they can hardly
be attributed to mere haste and inadvertence in the copyist em-
ployed by Hamilton. Later (December 27), Bruce wrote a letter
of remonstrance to Hamilton. "I am assured that your sister's
son, the Earl of Huntly, would not have done the like that ye have
done, and if I failed in anything in that letter, I failed only in this,
in framing my pen over far to your lordship's humour, which I knew
to be ambitious." Knowing this, Bruce had called in Hamilton, and
had said that God called him ! And then Bruce, having knowingly
invited an ambitious man, and attributed the invitation to the Deity ;
having summoned a prince who, failing James and his issue, was
nearest the crown, expressed surprise that " the king takes it, as
I hear, as if I had pressed to set you in a chair foreanent him.
Surely it came never in my mind ; and of all fools I had been the
worst, if so I had done." *^

Mr Bruce's excuses are inconsistent : we shall see other examples
of his logic and his conduct, in the affair of the Gowrie conspiracy.
It did not need much intelligence to see that, in summoning as
a leader a man notoriously ambitious, and by birth so near the
throne, Bruce laid himself open to the king's construction of his
action. It was the natural, and probably the correct construction,
and, as Bruce saw, was replete with " inconveniences " to himself
"and the good cause." Spottiswoode cites, but not quite verbally,
Hamilton's copy of Bruce's letter. But the sense of that letter itself
is sufficiently patent.*^ Spottiswoode may be condemned, as he is
by Dr M'Crie, for disloyalty as a historian, and for displaying Pres-
byterian zeal during the troubles in December, and turning his coat
in January. ^^ All the accounts of the tumult are naturally coloured
by the partisanship of the narrators. Spottiswoode did not invent
Welsh's seditious sermon, of which Calderwood says nothing (Sun-
day, December 19), though he cites at length Bruce's sermon. Dr
M'Crie also omits the inconvenient eloquence of Mr Welsh, though
it is embalmed in the ' Register of the Privy Council.' " I am
heartily sorry," said Bruce, later, " that our holy and gracious cause
should be so obscured by this late tumult," which, according to Dr
M'Crie, " scarcely deserves the name of a riot." " I had rather,"
Bruce said, " have been banished Scotland for ever, ere one drop of
their blood had been shed that day." Bruce insisted now on the


virtue of patience : he was careful to discriminate between James
and his advisers : he mourned the defection of many preachers and
others, whence we may gather that the Brethren had not been
unanimous during the troubles of the last two months.

All this was very well, but it came after the reading to an excited
populace of the story of Haman, and it came after Bruce's invitation
to Hamilton. If the ministers were all for peace and patience, why
did one of them read inflammatory scriptures about hanging a states-
man and massacring malignants ? Was the leadership of the godly
by an ambitious prince such as Hamilton likely to lead to public
tranquillity ? Bruce's pacific sermon came two days too late, and
was not reinforced by the sermon of Welsh on a devil-possessed king,
who ought to be tied hand and foot. The tumult was caused by the
exciting sermons, the " indignation meeting," the inflammatory lessons
from the Book of Esther, the exaggerated rumours, and the panic
(whether wilfully stirred or not) of a popish massacre. The armed
townsmen, like the mob of Ephesus, knew not wherefore they were
come together. Some were intent on rescuing the king, others on
hanging a few Octavians. Last came the preachers' dealing with
Hamilton, which wore an ill face. James was first alarmed, then
angry, finally he saw his chance, and the tumult, a confused brawl,
gave him his opportunity. On the 20th four ministers, including
Bruce, were ordered into Edinburgh Castle, then held by Mar ;
these men, with Cranstoun, were to appear at Linlithgow on Decem-
ber 25. Among them was Andrew Hart, the publisher, described
as " bookbinder." Bruce and Balcanquhel fled to England, James
Melville concealed the other prophets in Fife.^^ The town heard
with terror tales that the Borderers were to sack the town. " They
offered to put all in the king's will, both concerning Kirk and
policy, to save their goods." ^^ On January i, 1597, the Provost,
Hume of North Berwick, who pacified the riot, and the bailies made
proffers " to appoint neither magistrates nor ministers in future
without the king's approval," disavowing the tumult as provoked by
the preachers.^^ The king entered his capital on January i, 1597.
He forbade assemblies of the Kirk in Edinburgh. He forbade the
ministers to live together as they had done, " in the circuit of a
close." He asserted the power to make ministers preach, or desist,
whenever he thought fit.*^* Threats hung over the town : the meet-
ing of the judges was summoned to Perth. Welsh, whose sermon of
December 18 Calderwood does not notice, was denounced a rebel :


it is clear that Spottiswoode took the words of the sermon from the
'Privy Council Register' (v. 359).

James had grasped his nettle, and it had crumpled harmless in
his hand. All the proud preachers and prophets, the bold barons
and burgesses, who had so long threatened and controlled him,
they to whom he had truckled, " an irresolute ass," had ceased to
be terrible. And thus was avenged the old Hammer of the
Preachers, the bane of Morton, the discourted Arran. He did not
live to see the day of triumph. In the height of the war of the
Kirk (November 1596) he appears to have ridden to offer James
his services. Returning to Kyle, he was warned to shun the feud
of Douglas of Parkhead, nephew of Morton. Arran said that he
would not leave his way for him nor for all of the name of Douglas !
Parkhead armed a company and mounted : he overtook Arran at
a glen called Catslack (there is a Catslack burn on Yarrow)
and ran the famous Chancellor through the body with a spear
(December i, 1596).^^

So in the notable year '96 perished Arran, "Captain James
Stewart," the stately, the brave, the kinglike, the accomplished,
but avaricious, cruel, and untrustworthy glory of the House of
Ochiltree. He "died in his enemy's day," and did not behold
the triumph which would have gladdened his heart, perhaps restored
his power.


^ Calderwood, v. 420, 421.

- Forbes- Leitli, Narratives of Scottish Catholics, pp. 226-229.

^ See the scheme in Calderwood, v. 421-433.

* See ' Register of Privy Council,' v., Dr Masson's Introduction.

' Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 711 ; Tyller, ix. 212. Major Hume in 'Trea?on and
Plot ' may be consulted.

•^ Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 706. ' Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 706, 707.

" Thorpe, Calendar, li. 708. * Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 720-723.

''" Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 723, 724. ^^ Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 710.

I'-i M-Crie, Life of Andrew Melville, pp. 483-4S5 ; ii. 524-52S (1S19).

13 Privy Council Register, v. 172. '* Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 715, 716.

1* See Mr T. G. Law's essay, with copies of the documents, in ' Miscellany of
the Scottish History Society,' vol. i. No. 2.

18 Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 715. "■ Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 71S.

18 Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 720-723. i" Privy Council Register, v. 310, 31 1.

20 James Melville, pp. 368, 369. 21 Melville, pp. 370, 371.

424 NOTES.

22 Caldervvood, v. 443-448, 23 Tytler, ix. 231.

24 Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 723 ; Calderwood, v. 450-453.

•® Calderwood, v. 163. -^ Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 723.

^^ See Dr M'Crie's 'Andrew Melville,' i. 295-302 (1819).

^ Life of Andrew Melville, i. 295-298. -^ Calderwood, v. 458.

^° M'Crie, Andrew Melville, loc cit. ^' Calderwood, v. 458.

32 Privy Council Register, v. 326. ^^ Calderwood, v. 463.

3* Privy Council Register, v. 332-334, 336.

^ Calderwood, v. 469. '^ Calderwood, v. 482.

^ Calderwood, v. 4S6. ^^ Privy Council Register, v. 340-342.

3" Calderwood, v. 496, note. •*" Privy Council Register, v. 348.

^1 Calderwood, v. 501. ^- Calderwood, v. 512.

** Nicolson to R. Cecil, December 21, State Papers, Scot., Eliz., MS., vol.
lix. No. 90. Bowes to Robert Cecil, December 21, 1596, State Papers, Scot.,
Eliz., MS., vol. lix. No. 88. For James's version see 'Privy Council Register,'
V. 362, 363.

** Melville, p. 517.

^ Calderwood, v. 510-514; Spottiswoode, iii. 27-32.

46 Privy Council Register, v. 349-352.

'*'' See Appendix B., " Logan of Restalrig and the Cowrie Conspiracy."

*8 Calderwood, v. 515, 534, 535.

■^^ Mr Tytler, ix. 250, 251, also cites this copy from a Warrender manuscript.

^^ M'Crie's Andrew Melville, pp. 194, 195, and notes ; ii. 94, 95 notes (1819).

*^ Calderwood, v. 520, 521 ; Privy Council Register, v. 353.

^^ Calderwood, v. 531. ^^ Privy Council Register, v. 356.

Online LibraryAndrew LangA history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) → online text (page 44 of 60)