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IN 1792 the eleventh Earl of Buchan published a
volume of Essays on the Life and Writings of Fletcher
of Saltoun and the Poet Thomson. It contains our only
biography of Fletcher ; but, though founded on original
sources of information, it is frequently inaccurate, and
must, therefore, be used with great caution. The
author of the article on Fletcher in the third edition of
the Encyclopedia Britannica (1797) mentions that the
tenth Earl Marischal, when Governor of Neuchatel,
suggested to Rousseau that he should write the life of
Fletcher. Rousseau was furnished with MSS. for this
purpose; but nothing came of it, and most of the
materials on which that work was to have been founded
seem to have been lost. Some interesting documents,
however, are preserved in the University Library at
Edinburgh, including MSS. used by Lord Buchan, and a
letter to him from Lord Hailes, who had evidently been
applied to for information. (Laing MSS. 364.)

Mr. F. Espinasse refers to most of the printed
authorities for the life of Fletcher, in a succinct but



exhaustive article in the Dictionary of National Bio-
graphy ', vol. xix. p. 292 ; and in the Scottish Review for
July 1893 (vol. xxii. p. 61) there is a very interesting
paper on c Andrew Fletcher, the Scottish Patriot,' from
the pen of Mr. J. R. Donaldson. Many allusions to
Fletcher's conduct as a member of the last Scottish
Parliament are to be found in the Godolphin Corre-
spondence in the British Museum. (Add. MSS. 28,055.)
I have to thank Mr. Fletcher of Saltoun for allowing
me to consult a volume of Recollections respecting the
Family of Saltoun y and for an opportunity of examin-
ing the library and visiting the scenes of Fletcher's
early life.

Mr. E. Gordon Duff, librarian of the John Rylands
Library, Manchester, and Mr. R. A. S. Macfie have
for some time been engaged in compiling a Biblio-
graphy of Fletcher; and I desire to thank them for
their kindness in placing their MS. unreservedly in my
hands. There is considerable doubt respecting the
authorship of several pamphlets which have been attri-
buted to Fletcher, as well as regarding the places at
which his works were printed ; and if this Bibliography
appears in print, it will be found most valuable by all
who take an interest in his writings.

G. W. T. O.
OXFORD, March 1897.




Fletcher's Birth and Education Travels Abroad A Member
of the Scottish Parliament Goes to the Continent . . 9


The Whig Plot Comes to England with Monmouth Shoots
Dare Is found guilty of High Treason and attainted
The Estate of Saltoun forfeited 20


Adventures in Spain Serves in Hungary against the Turks
Returns to Scotland at the Revolution Reforms in the
Scottish Parliament Saltoun Restored Darien . , 37


Fletcher's Political Writings ' A Discourse on Militias ' The
Affairs of Scotland Supports Slavery as a Cure for
Mendicancy Attacks the Partition Treaty . . . 49


The First Session of the Union Parliament Fletcher proposes
his Twelve Limitations on the Crown An Act of Security
The Supplies are refused . . . . . .61


'A Conversation concerning a Right Regulation of Govern-
ment for the Common Good of Mankind ' , , , 85





A New Ministry in Scotland Scenes in the Parliament House
The Act of Security becomes Law England retaliates
by passing the Alien Act 96


A Ministerial Crisis, and a Change of Government in Scotland
The Government is defeated The Limitations again
Fletcher's Duel with Roxburghe The Act for a Treaty
of Union passed 108


The Union Commission at Westminster The Act of Union
passed Belhaven's Speech Violent Conduct of Fletcher
and other Members during the Debates . . . .129


Arrest of Fletcher His Release The Jacobite Prisoners of
1708 Death of Belhaven Fletcher retires into Private
Life Conversations with Wodrow His Death Views
of his Character ...,,,,. 142


Fletcher's Birth and Education Travels Abroad A Member of
the Scottish Parliament Goes to the Continent.

ANDREW FLETCHER, eldest son of Sir Robert Fletcher
of Saltoun, in the county of Haddington, and of
Catherine, daughter of Sir Henry Bruce of Clack-
mannan, was born in the year 1653. He was educated
either at home or in the parish school of Saltoun until
1665. On the thirteenth of January in that year his
father died, having, on his deathbed, intrusted the
charge of educating his son to Burnet, the future Bishop
of Salisbury, who had just been presented to the living
of Saltoun, of which Sir Robert was the patron. Burnet's
first published work was, A Discourse on the Memory of
that rare and truly virtuous person. Sir Robert Fletcher
of Saltoun, written by a gentleman of his acquaintance.
This volume, which the author calls, ' The rude essay
of an unpolished hand,' contains almost nothing about
either Sir Robert or his son ; and, in fact, Burnet does
little more than use his patron as a peg on which to
hang a string of platitudes. But from the moment Burnet
became minister of Saltoun, Andrew Fletcher lived in



an atmosphere of learning. There was a library belong-
ing to the Church of Saltoun, founded by one of the
parish ministers, and added to by Burnet and the
Fletcher family ; and among this collection of books we
may fancy Burnet and his pupil spending many hours.
There were two catalogues, one of them written by Sir
Robert Fletcher; and in August 1666 we find the
' Laird of Saltoun,' then thirteen years of age, visiting
the library, comparing the books with the catalogues,
and gravely reporting to the Presbytery of Haddington
that Burnet was taking proper care of the books.

These books were chiefly theological, but among them
were The Acts of the Second Parliament of King Charles,
from which Burnet might teach the boy many useful
lessons, and the ' Book of the Martyrs, 3 vol. in folio,
gifted by my Lady Saltoun.' For the support of this
library Burnet left a sum of money; and it is still
knoAvn in the district as 'Bishop Burnet's Library.'
The books are preserved in a room in the manse of
Saltoun under the charge of the parish minister, and
prominent among them are a fine folio edition of
Burnet's own works, and a black-letter copy of Foxe's
Book of Martyrs.

Of Fletcher's earliest days little is recorded, except
that he was, from infancy, of a fiery but generous
nature. According to family tradition Burnet imbued
his pupil 'with erudition and the principles of free


government ' ; and perhaps it is not mere fancy which
leads us to picture the keen, eager, excitable boy
reading the Book of Martyrs, and listening to Burnet,
who describes his system of education in the account
which he gives of the manner in which he taught the
Duke of Gloucester in after years. ' I took/ he says,
'to my own province, the reading and explaining the
Scriptures to him, the instructing him in the Principles
of Religion and the Rules of Virtue, and the giving him
a view of History, Geography, Politics, and Government.'
History, politics, and the theory of government these
were, all through his life, Andrew Fletcher's favourite
studies; and we cannot doubt that Burnet not only
drilled him thoroughly in Greek and Latin, as he
certainly did, but also fostered that taste for letters
from which not even the turmoil of politics could ever
wean him.

Fletcher also owed much to the influence of his
mother ; and to this he himself, in his later years, bore
testimony. 'One day,' it is recorded in the private
family history, ' after Andrew Fletcher had entertained
his company with a concert of music, and they were
walking about in the hall at Saltoun, a gentleman fixed
his eye on the picture of Katherine Bruce, where the
elegant pencil of Sir Peter Lely had blended the softness
and grace that form the pleasing ornaments of the sex.
" That is my mother," says Andrew ; " and if there is


anything in my education and acquirements during the
early part of my life, I owe them entirely to that

Burnet remained at Saltoun until November 1669,
when he was appointed Professor of Divinity at Glasgow.
It is, however, possible that Fletcher was sent to the
University of Edinburgh before that date, as the name
of an Andrew Fletcher occurs in the University Register
for the year 1668. This may not have been young
Fletcher of Saltoun ; but in any case we would suppose,
from the acquirements which he afterwards displayed,
that he had received a University education, though
this is not to be gathered from Lord Buchan, who says :
'When he had completed his course of elementary
studies in Scotland, under the care of his excellent
preceptor, he was sent to travel on the Continent.' But
as Fletcher was only fifteen when Burnet left Saltoun, it
seems more probable that he was sent to the University
of Edinburgh for a year or two before starting on the
4 Grand Tour.'

Of his travels nothing appears to be known ; but he
doubtless followed the route usually taken, through
France, Germany, and Italy, by young Scotsmen of
family, who, it need scarcely be said, were almost
always sent to finish their education by visiting foreign
countries. Fletcher knew French, but with regard to
Italian Lord Buchan mentions a curious fact. 'He


had,' says Lord Buchan, 'acquired the grammatical
knowledge of the Italian so perfectly as to compose and
publish a treatise in that language; yet he could not
speak it, as he found when having an interview with
Prince Eugene of Savoy, and being addressed in that
language by the Prince, he could not utter a syllable to
be understood.'

Having returned to Scotland, he was, in June 1678,
sent as one of the members for Haddingtonshire to the
Convention of Estates which met that summer. His
colleague was Adam Cockburn of Ormiston, a fine
gentleman of the old school, but one of the most
virulent Presbyterians even of that day. It is to be
observed that the rolls of parliament have the name of
'James Fletcher of Saltoun.' It appears, from the
Official Return of Members (published in 1878) that the
original commissions for Haddingtonshire have been
lost ; but there is no doubt whatever that the rolls are
wrong, and the name 'James' appears by a mistake
instead of ' Andrew.'

This Convention of Estates, in which Lauderdale
was Lord High Commissioner, sat from the 26th of
June to the nth of July. It was summoned for the
purpose of voting money to maintain the troops who
were to be employed in suppressing the conventicles or
field meetings of the Presbyterians; and a supply of
thirty thousand pounds a year, for five years, was


granted. The Opposition, led by Hamilton, could
muster only thirty-nine votes, while the supporters of
the Government numbered one hundred, including, of
course, all the Bishops. Among the thirty-nine was
Fletcher, who thus, from the outset of his public life,
took his stand against the arbitrary system on which
Scotland was governed until the Revolution.

During this short session an incident took place
which was very characteristic of Fletcher. The Estates
had ordered that none but members were to be admitted
to the Parliament House. Fletcher's brother Henry,
however, had managed to slip in. He was discovered,
fined, and sent to the Tolbooth. So next day Andrew
Fletcher ' pitched on little William Tolemache as no
member,' as Lord Fountainhall puts it. On this
Lauderdale was forced to declare that he was one of
his servants, whom he was entitled to bring into the
House. This is the first instance of that hot, perti-
nacious spirit which Fletcher so often displayed on the
floor of the Parliament House j nor, trifling as the
incident was, must it be forgotten that it required some
courage to face Lauderdale, whose easygoing, plausible
manner concealed a most vindictive spirit.

The Government had now resolved to rule Scotland
by the sword ; and their policy was to turn the militia,
as far as possible, into a standing army. The Scottish
Privy Council was ordered to draw five thousand foot


and five hundred horse from the militia, and quarter
them at the expense of the heritors in all the counties ;
and instructions were given that, in addition to the
oaths of allegiance and supremacy, the soldiers should
be called upon to swear { to maintain the present
Government in Church and State, as it is now established
by law, and to oppose the damnable principle of taking
up arms against the King, or those commissionate by
him.' In other words, the militia of Scotland, where a
majority of the people were opposed to the Church
established by law, were to swear that they would
maintain the principles of passive obedience and non-
resistance. And this oath was to be taken, ' not in the
ordinary way that such military oaths used to be exe-
cuted, by drawing up the troop or company together in
a body, but that every soldier, one after another, shall
by himself swear the same.'

Of the ' New Model,' as, borrowing the phraseology
of the Commonwealth, the Ministers called the troops,
two hundred foot and forty-six horse were quartered
upon Haddingtonshire ; and this led Fletcher into
collision with the Government. At the end of July 1680,
along with Sinclair of Stevenston and Murray of Black-
barrony, he was accused, before the Privy Council, of
seditiously obstructing the King's Service, 'in putting
the Act of the Privy Council to execution for levying
the five thousand five hundred men out of the militia.'


It was expected that the accused, who, says Lord
Fountainhall, stated 'difficulties and scruples,' would
be fined and imprisoned, but they escaped with a
rebuke. In January of the following year Lord Yester,
Fletcher, and ten other gentlemen of Haddingtonshire,
presented a petition to the Privy Council, ' complaining
of the standing forces, ther quartering upon them.'
This petition was extremely resented, because it spoke
of the quartering of soldiers on the country, in time of
peace, as contrary to law, and seemed to reflect upon
the Government.

At the general election of 1681 there was a double
return from Haddingtonshire. The Lairds of Saltoun
and Ormiston were returned by those freeholders who
opposed the Government, and Hepburn of Humbie and
Wedderburn of Gosford by the Ministerial party. It is
said that when the matter came before the committee
on disputed elections, Bishop Paterson of Edinburgh,
who was chairman, proposed that ' for the sake of serving
the King,' some votes which had been given in favour of
Fletcher should not be counted. But this dishonest
advice was not taken; the case was fairly tried, and
Fletcher and Cockburn were declared to have been duly

The Duke of York was Commissioner in this Parlia-
ment, which met on the 28th of July 1681. The two
great measures of the session were the 'Act acknow-


ledging and asserting the Right of Succession to the
Imperial Crown of Scotland,' which was passed for the
purpose of securing the succession of the Duke of York,
and the famous ' Act anent Religion and the Test.'

Both of these measures were strenuously opposed by
Fletcher, who is said to have written a number of
private letters to members of the Parliament, imploring
them to vote against the Succession Act, on the ground
that the Duke was both a Roman Catholic and a

The Test Act was, in spite of its vast importance,
brought in and passed in the course of a single day ;
but at least one amendment was moved by Fletcher.
'Mr. Fletcher of Saltoun,' says Dalrymple, 'after long
opposing the bill, with all the fire of ancient eloquence,
and of his own spirit, made a motion which the Court
party could not, in decency, oppose ; that the security
of the Protestant Religion should be made a part of
the Test.'

The new clause was prepared by Sir James Dalrymple,
then Lord President of the Court of Session, who so
framed it that the ' Protestant Religion ' was defined as
that set forth in the Old Scots Confession of Faith of
1567, which was inconsistent with Episcopacy, and also
allowed the lawfulness of resistance. 'That was a
book,' says Burnet, ' so worn out of use, that scarce any
one in the whole Parliament had ever read it. None



of the Bishops had, as appeared afterwards.' The
result was that Fletcher's amendment, as framed by
Dalrymple, became part of the Act, all the Bishops
agreeing to it.

Fletcher also resisted the monstrous and unconstitu-
tional clause which compelled the county electors, on
pain of forfeiting the franchise, to swear that they would
never attempt to ' bring about,' as the statute puts it,
' any change or alteration either in church or state, as it
is now established by the laws of this Kingdom.' There
was a division on this question. No lists remain to
show how the members voted ; but the following protest
is inscribed on the rolls of Parliament : ' That part of
the Act If the Test should be put to the Electors of
Commissioners for Shires to the Parliament, having
been put to the vote by itself, before the voting and
passing of the whole Act ; and the same being carried
in the Affirmative, the Laird of Saltoun and the Laird
of Grant, having voted in the negative, desired their
dissent might be marked.'

Fletcher had now incurred the implacable enmity of
the Duke of York, who, says Mackay, ' would not forgive
his behaviour in that Parliament ' ; and he was, more-
over, soon involved once more in trouble with the
Privy Council. The Estates had voted money for the
public service ; and Fletcher was named as one of the
Commissioners of Supply for Haddingtonshire. Part of


the Commissioners' duty was to arrange for the troops
which were quartered on the country; and in April
1682 the Lord Advocate accused them before the Privy
Council for not meeting with the Sheriff-Depute, to set
prices on corn and straw, grass and hay, for the soldiers'
horses ; ' or at least for making a mock act, in setting
down prices, but not laying out the localities where the
forces may be served with these necessaries.' In short,
the Laird of Saltoun and the Commissioners of Supply
did all they could to thwart and annoy the Govern-

' After much trouble and pains,' in the words of Lord
Fountainhall, the gentlemen of East Lothian consented
to fix store-houses and magazines in the county ; but in
a short time Fletcher came to the conclusion that he
could no longer remain in Scotland. He accordingly
went to London, perhaps to consult Burnet on the
situation, and thence made his way to the Continent.


The Whig Plot Conies to England with Monmouth Shoots Dare
Is found guilty of High Treason and attainted The Estate of
Saltoun forfeited.

FLETCHER'S movements cannot be accurately traced for
some time after he left Scotland. Argyll wrote to him,
on several occasions, for the purpose of enlisting his
services against the Government ; but he did not answer
the letters. At last, however, when he was at Brussels,
he heard that the English Ministers had privately re-
quested the Marquis de Grand to have him apprehended.
This seems to have irritated him ; for he went to London
and joined the circle of Whigs who were then engaged
in preparing to resist the succession of the Duke of
York. As is well known, before the plot was matured
Shaftesbury fled to Holland, where he died, and the
management of this dangerous business was left in the
hands of a council of six Monmouth, Russell, Essex,
Howard, Hampden, and Algernon Sidney.

According to Lord Buchan, Fletcher and Baillie of
Jerviswoode were the only two Scotsmen who were
admitted into the secrets of the six; but what part


Fletcher took in the Whig Plot, which, it need scarcely
be said, must be distinguished from the Rye-House
Plot, of which Fletcher probably knew nothing, it is
impossible to say. Baillie of Jerviswoode was offered
his life, on condition that he would give evidence
against his friends, and against Fletcher in particular ;
but he answered, in the often quoted words, 'They
who make such a proposal know neither me nor my

In October 1683 he was in Paris, whither he had
perhaps journeyed in company with Burnet, who had
left England at the beginning of September. Viscount
Preston who was then at Paris as Envoy- Extraordinary
from the English Court, wrote to Halifax about Fletcher.
'Here,' he says, 'is one Fletcher, lately come from
Scotland. He is an ingenious but a very dangerous
fanatic, and doubtless hath some commission, for I hear
he is very busy and very virulent.'

Burnet returned to England in the beginning of the
following year ; and Fletcher seems then to have gone
to Holland, where he saw he would be safer than any-
where else, for we next find him travelling about in
that country and in Belgium, visiting the libraries of
Leyden, and picking up volumes among the bookstalls
ot Haarlem. It was perhaps at this time that the
curious incident recorded by Mrs. Calderwood of
Polton, in the Coltness Collection, occurred. The


story is almost incredible ; but Mrs. Calderwood gives
it in the most matter-of-fact way.

'They tell,' she says, 'a story of old Fletcher of
Salton and a skipper: Salton could not endure the
smoak of toback, and as he was in a night-scoot, the
skipper and he fell out about his forbidding him to
smoak ; Salton, finding he could not hinder him, went
up and sat on the ridge of the boat, which bows like an
arch. The skipper was so contentious that he followed
him, and, on whatever side Salton sat, he put his pipe in
the cheek next him, and whifed it in his face ; Salton
went down several times, and brought up stones in his
pockets from the ballast, and slipt them into the
skipper's pocket that was next the water, and when he
found he had loadened him as much as would sink him,
he gives him a shove, so that over he hirsled. The
boat went on, and Salton came down amongst the rest
of the passengers, who probably were asleep, and fell
asleep amongst the rest. In a little time bump came
the scoot against the side, on which they all damned
the skipper ; but, behold, when they called, there was
no skipper; which would breed no great amazement
in a Dutch company.'

In the meantime the Government had not lost sight
of Fletcher; for on the aist of November 1684 he was
cited at the Market Cross of Edinburgh, and at the
pier and shore of Leith, to appear within sixty days,


and answer to the charge of 'Conversing with Argyll
and other rebels abroad.' With regard to this charge,
Lord Fountainhall says that Fletcher's intrigues with
Monmouth, at the time of the Whig Plot, could not be
criminal, as Monmouth had received his pardon in
December 1683; but this was not the opinion of the
Lord Advocate, for in the following January the Laird
of Saltoun and a number of other 'fugitive rebels,'
including Lord Loudoun, Lord Melville, and Sir James
Dalrymple of Stairs, were charged with high treason,
and declared outlaws.

Soon after the death of Charles n. Fletcher was at
Brussels ; and Monmouth, who was then living incognito
at Amsterdam, sent his confidential servant, William
Williams, with a letter to him. Williams afterwards, when
he was called as a witness against Fletcher, said he did
not know the contents of the letter ; but it doubtless con-

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Online LibraryGeorge W. T. (George William Thomson) OmondFletcher of Saltoun → online text (page 1 of 9)