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The earls of Cromartie; their kindred, country, and correspondence (Volume 1) online

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calmly replied that the Secretary was not to know his Instructions, as they
were private for his Majesty, and that the Secretary only desired a copy of
the Act of Indemnity, which he had delivered to him as a private person.


Lauderdale having, as he conceived, exposed Lord Tarbat, argued warmly
against the clause of exclusion. The Earl of Crawford supported the
arguments of Lauderdale, he being also aimed at by the Act of Exclusion.
Lord Tarbat replied to Lauderdale and Crawford, He said that the whole
nation was now involved in so much guilt, that none could allege he was
unjustly dealt with when his life and fortune were secured, though he was
not allowed by his Majesty to serve in a public capacity, and that legal
trials were not necessary, as his Majesty might remove his own servants
without a process, nor was his Majesty's prerogative infringed by this over-
ture, as the exception was to be made by his Majesty's authority ; and in
this instance he only delegated to his Parliament to ascertain the present
condition of his servants, and who were fittest to serve him ; and those
who had been loyal to him would give him faithful advice. This course
would relieve him of the odium of removing such as were unfit.

These arguments of Lord Tarbat had considerable influence with His
Majesty, who expressed himself favourable to his Lordship's proposals ;
and the Duke of York, the Lord Chancellor, Ormond, and others, also
expressed themselves in favour of them.

The whole English Court, weary of Lauderdale's overbearing conduct,
assisted Lord Tarbat, and magnified all he said and did. It was Lord
Tarbat's design to raise Lauderdale to such a passion as to render him ridi-
culous, and in that object he succeeded.

His Majesty commanded the recalling of remissions passed in favour of
private persons, granted warrant for excepting any twelve persons from
public trust, and desired a new Council to be called, with whom he might
devise how to establish five persons at London, by whose advice all Scottish
affairs should be managed. But before the appointed diet, a new incident
intervened : Archibald Lord Lome, eldest son of the late Marquis of Argyll,


wrote a letter to Lord Duffus, informing him, that for £1000, a certain great
man on whom Middleton depended might be removed ; and adding (after
some expressions concerning Parliament), — " And then the King will see their
tricks." This letter was intercepted, carried to Middleton, and laid before
Parliament. The words quoted were viewed as a reflection on Parliament ;
and they entreated his Majesty to send down Lord Lome to be tried. In
their letter they recommended Lord Tarbat as a person of ability and known
loyalty, to whom they had intrusted their address. This letter coming to
Lord Tarbat, he requested his Majesty to send down Lord Lome as a prisoner.
Lauderdale, who was connected with Lome by marriage, opposed this in the
Council, but Lord Tarbat pleaded that this was treason, and so not bailable.
Lauderdale pressed to be caution for him, an offer which was accepted. It
was arranged that Lauderdale, Newburgh, and Tarbat should intimate to Lord
Lome his Majesty's pleasure, and particularly ascertain from him the name
of the person referred to in his letter as a briber. Lome was astonished,
and said that he would mention it only to his Majesty. This was permitted,
but only by letter ; and this letter was shown to Chancellor Hyde, whose
favour was ever after lost by the person named. Thereupon the King,
instead of overturing for five Scottish Councillors to reside at Whitehall,
wrote an order to that effect, without acquainting Lauderdale, and left
the nomination of the persons to the Commissioner ; and also ordered tliat
twelve persons should be excepted from public trust in the Act of In-

The Earl of Gleucairn, in a letter to Lord Tarbat, dated Edinburgh, 8th
July, congratulates him on the success of his mission, as follows : —

My Lord — I haue receaued nou 3 of yours, the last with Da. Ferguson. I
haue seine all yours to the Comissioner, with no litle satisfactione to all of us for
your prudent and prosperous management of so great ane affaire. All nou that is


wislied [is] that yee may be dispatched tymlie, that our parliament may not be out-
Avearied with attendance. I assuir you all honest men heir are als much exalted
as others are struck in amaze to sie thair hope of a neu partie at once dashd. I
hop in this you hau servd the King, and preservd the royall interest, which they
had alreadie begunne to shake. Yee may assuire all those noble persons, especi-
allie my Lord Chancellar, that all his Maiesties condiscendencies will be no farther
mad use of then to establish a lasting obedience to his authoritie, and with so
much moderation as that his Maiesties interest singlie, and no personall interest
or prejudice sail appeare in our publick actings. Our greattest business are yet
to doe, and his Maiesties countenancing his parliament's procedure will not a litle
encourage them to goe thorough without faintinge. I hop yee will present mA*
service to my Lord Chancellar, whois seasonable interposings is of no small value
toward his Maiesties seruice in this kingdome. I beseech you plead my excuse
for not "\yreatting to my Lord Neuburgh, hauing sitt all this day in parliament,
and ame wearie eneugh. All I sail say more is that I ame, most hartlie,
Your affectionatt humble servant,


I haue docketted your signator long agoe ; I wish it fare not the worse at
som mens hands.

For the right honorable The Lord Tarbett, at the WTiytt Suan, in Kingstreett,
Westminster, aboue Oxyard, at London.^

In the course of these nearotiations and contentions at Court, Lord Tarbat
addressed the following letter to Lord Lauderdale : —

Hampton Court, 18th July 1662.
My Lord, — If I had been despatched heer so soone as I exspected, I had
waited on your lordship to have receaved your commands this day, but fearing that
the King's goeing to sea may prevent me of that honor to-morrow, lest I misse
these letters, I have sent this bearer to cary them to me, with what other service
your lordship will favour me with ; for albeit ther may be some mistakes concern-
inge these thinges I have been imployed in, yett I hope I have caried so, and

^ Orifriiial Letter at Tarbat House.

1714.] THE BILLETING ACT, 1G62. Ixxxvii

shall indeavor to deport myself for the future in all thinges relative to your con-
cerns as that I may exspect yett to be esteemed by yow,

My Lord, your most humble servant,

Geo. M'Kenzie.

For the right honorable the Earle of Lawderdale, sole secretary to his Majesty

for the Kingdome of Scotland.
[Indorsed] : July 18, 1662, Sir Geo. M'^Kenzie of Tarbat to Lord Lauderdale.^

Lauderdale was now brought so low, that his Majesty excluded him from
his presence at times that he admitted Lord Tarbat. On Lord Tarbat's
return to Scotland, in a meeting at the Abbey, he proposed that the persons
excepted should be billeted, that is, Members of Parliament should give a
private paper or billet containing the names of those whom they desired to
be excepted from office. A plurality of votes was to be decisive in every
case. Such a proposition was new% and seemed fraught with mischief, but
after reasoning it passed. Among others, Lauderdale, Crawford, and Sir
Robert Moray were billeted. Bishop Burnet asserts that emissaries were sent
to every Parliament man, directing him how to make his list, so that these
three miglit be in the number of the incapacitated. But Dr. Mackenzie
strenuously argues that Sir Eobert Moray was not one on Lord Tarbat's
list ; for there was always great friendship and amity between Lord Tarbat
and Sir Eobert Moray, and that ho had often heard the Earl of Cromartie
mention him with the greatest respect imaginable, as his learned and worthy
friend ; and Dr. Mackenzie had heard the Earl of Balcarras, who was no
friend to the Lord Tarbat, and to whose aunt Sir Robert was married, say that
there was always a great friendship and love between them, ard when that
learned gentleman, upon the Restoration, formed the project of the Royal
Society for propagating of Natural Philosophy, Lord Tarbat was, as already

1 British Museum. Additional MSS. 23, 249, fol. i.


stated, one of those whom Sir Eobert consulted in it, and was one of the
iirst members.^

The sensation created by the passing of these Acts soon came to the know-
ledge of Lauderdale, who asked the King "What if they billet me, sir?"
The King answered that the billeters could not meddle with his servants. But
Lauderdale told the King that he was actually billeted, and that the Act was
passed by the Commissioner without consulting his Majesty. The Duke of
Lennox, the Earl of Dumfries, and Lord Tarbat were sent to his Majesty
witli the Act of Indemnity and the Acts of Billeting and Fining. When
these reached the King he threw the Act of Billeting into his cabinet, declaring
that he could not follow their advice, but at the same time would not disclose
their secret. Lord Tarbat, finding his Majesty much dissatisfied, protested that
his only design in all this business was the royal interest, the suppression of
discontent among his servants, and the prevention of that ruin which the
Cavaliers of Scotland were likely to suffer through Lauderdale's influence.
After an assurance from the King that he would not believe any statement of
Lauderdale's to his prejudice, Lord Tarbat was allowed to kiss his Majesty's
hand, and returned to Scotland.

Middleton, after the Parliament was adjourned, proceeded to the western
shires to let them see the authority which they had so much opposed ; and
having held a Council at Glasgow, on 1st October 1662, it was resolved to
discharge all ministers from preaching who had no lawful presentations
fiom the patrons, and would not receive collation from the Bishops. This
Act threw out at once 200 ministers, and was blamed by all wise and good
men as tending to irritate a country which was attached to its ministers,
and joining all in a common discontent.

^^^^ile Middleton was in the west. Lord Tarbat returned from London,

' History of the M.ackenzies, MS., by Dr. George Mackenzie.


and advised him to hasten to Court to maintain his declining cause. Thither
he hastened, and when a Council was called, he gave account of all his
proceedings in Scotland. Lauderdale made a lengthy speech in opposition.
Among other things he complained of Lord Tarbat for having given him
first one copy of an Act of Oblivion, and then another differing from the
former, the one only excepting as to fines, the other from public trust, and
that at that rate he might present more, differing from one another. That
Lord Tarbat owned his last copy, and said he would answer for it. That he
then objected to Tarbat, that from the words it appeared that all who were
to be fined were to be incapacitated from holding office, and that Lord Tarbat
answered that Parliament intended only to incapacitate a small number of the
most guilty, not exceeding twelve. In the Council, Lauderdale used very
vigorous language against the Billeting Act and its author. Lord Tarbat. He
said billeting " is a stranger engine than white gunpowder, which some fancy,
for sure this shoots without any noise at all. But, blessed be God, this
dreadful engine was never known as to punishments amongst any people,
heathen or Christian, who had the blessing to live under monarchy. Some
republics use the billet, or the ballot, in giving places, but I never so much
as read of anything like it as to punishment, except the Ostracism amongst
the Athenians, who were governed by that cursed Sovereign Lord the People,
and by their oystershell billeting."

In his answer the Earl of Middleton entered at great length on a vindica-
tion of his conduct, and among other things admitted that Lord Tarbat was
sent by him to his Majesty, having in his hands the Act of Indemnity,
and was further instructed that it was the Parliament's desire that some
persons should be excepted from public trust.

This discussion took place in Council on .5th February 1663; and
Lauderdale's charges and Middleton's answers were afterwards extended in


writing, and submitted to the King, At the end of five weeks thereafter the
Kin<J recalled Middleton's commission, and bestowed his place of General
and Captain of the Castle of Edinburgh on the Earl of Lauderdale.

Thus, while Middleton desired to supplant Lauderdale, the latter succeeded
in supplanting Middleton. John Earl of Eothes was chosen Commissioner.
To ingratiate himself with the King, Eothes and his sister, Lady Margaret
Leslie, offered her daughter Anna, Countess of Buccleuch, the greatest heiress
of her day, in marriage with the King's eldest-born son, James, created Duke
of Monmouth in England, and, after the marriage, also created Duke of
Buccleuch in Scotland.

At the entry of Eothes, as Commissioner, into Scotland, great multitudes
met him on the Border, The Chancellor, who loved Eothes but hated Lauder-
dale, scarcely knew how to act ; but, to satisfy formality, went to Edgebuck-
lingbrae, attended by all his own friends and those of Middleton.

Lord Tarbat and the new Commissioner were old allies. The Earl of
Eothes had befriended Lord Tarbat on the Eestoration, and was instrumental in
restoring him to his place as a Lord of Session. Notwithstanding that Eothes,
as Commissioner, was the nominee of Lauderdale, with whom Lord Tarbat was
at feud, his Lordship deemed it his duty to wait on the Commissioner.

This change at Court was so great a surprise that it confounded Middleton's
adherents, and distracted with joy the dependants of the two new favourites, —
a change which astonished even such as were indifferent.

After the Parliament assembled, the Earl of Lauderdale produced a letter
from the King to the Chancellor, dated at Whitehall, 4th June 1663, which
inveighed against the Act as to billeting, in terms similar to the speech of
Lauderdale in presence of the King. The letter is printed at length in the
Acts of the Parliament.^

' Vol. vii. p. 459.

1714.] LORD T An BATS EXPLAXAT/ONS, 1663. xci

A committee was appointed to examine witnesses on the whole business
of the billeting. The committee consisted of John Earl of Lauderdale, his
Majesty's Secretary; John Earl of Hadington; Sir John Gilmour, President of
the Court of Session ; Sir James Lockhart of Lee ; Sir Robert Moray, Provost
of Edinburgh ; and Alexander Wedderburn, Provost of Dundee, — four to form
a quorum. In the examination by the committee, the questions put to Lord
Tarbat, and his answers, are thus recorded :—

Interrogators put to the Lord Tarbet.

Whither brought you to his Maiestie tua draughts of ane act of pardon and
oblivion, the one excepting only as to fynes, the uther excepting also as to incapa-
cities from publict trust.

Whither did you publictlie oun this last to be the desyr of the parliament.

Whither did you lykewys earnestly press, in the name of the parliament, his
Maiesties consent to the incapacitating of some few of the most guiltie, not
exceiding tuell.

Answere be Sir George M<=Kenzie.

My Lords, — To the first : I did cary with me two draughts of the act of
indemnity to Hampton Court, on wherof wanted the exception of incapacity from
publick trust ; and I was desyred by the Kings commissioner to indeavour to pro-
cure his Maiesties allowance of a draught with that exceptioun, and to offer the
other if that were refused ; accordingly I presented on with that exception to his
Majesty in Councell. The other, upon my lord Secretaries desyre, I did give to
him some tyme before that, nor knew I, nor did I intend it should have been
showne to his Majesty.

To the other two questiones : I doe declare that the E. of Midlton, then his
Majesties commissioner, did instruct me to represent it to his Majesty as a thine;
desyred be the parliament, and, in the sense of honest men, necessar for his
Majesties service, that some dangerous persones, not exceeding ""lie number of
fourteen, should [be] excepted from publick trust : And accordingly I did represent
the samne from the commissioner to his Majesty : And albeit I doe exceedingly
regrate my misfortune in negotiating a matter which hath so much offended his
sacred Majesty, yett at that tyme I conceaved my self bound to obey the Commis-


sioner (he being delegat ■with royall power) in any imployment he putt on me :
And I beleeved his instructiones and commands sufficient warrand for me to rehearse
and represent what he desyred, since I spoke in no capacity but as his messenger
sent by him, and so dared nether mixe my owne knowledge nor judgment with his
commands, my trust being to obey in relating quhat he commanded : My lords,
upon my Lord Commissioners command, I have shewed to his Grace my Instruc-
tiones for that effect, and given to him a double of that Instruction, as I doubt not
his Grace will inform your lordships that he finds I had warrand therby, as is
abovesaid. At Edinburgh, the 1 July 1663. Geo. M'^Kenzie.i

Lauderdaill, I.P.C.

The full declaration made by Lord Tarbat as to his share in the passing
of the Act relating to Billeting explains more clearly his proceedings. His
declaration, as reported by his namesake, Sir George Mackenzie, Lord Advo-
cate, is in the following terms : —

" I do declare that the first time I ever heard of the billeting those who
were to be excepted from public trust was thus : — I came in accidentally to a
room in the Abbey, where were several persons, particularly the Duke of Richmond,
the Earl of Newburgh, Sir James Middletoun, Sir John Urchart, Sir John Strachan,
and several others, with two or three servants, and I found them discoursing of
excepting persons from public trust ; and the Duke, asking of me what order
should be observed by the Parliament in that vote, I told the same that we did
in choosing the Lords of the Articles, — the clerk should mark what names had
maniest votes, and that every member would write his twelve in a paper, and
read them out of it. But, says the Duke, we have been here speaking of
this way, — that every one should give in his twelve in a paper to the Clerk of
Register, without reading them out, and that he should, in face of Parliament,
read them all, and mark who had maniest votes ; for by this means, said he, every
one will give such names as he thinks fit, without fear or hazard, which, perhaps,
they will not do if they read out the names themselves. Upon this, some dis-
course passed, but without any conclusion, or any secrecy spoken of; and this
was ten or twelve days before it was spoken of in the Committee of Parliament.

1 British Museum. Additional MSS. 23, 249, fol. 9.

The next time I heard of it, I think, was the next day thereafter, when the Com-
missioner told me some had spoken to him of excepting the persons by billets
given in silently, which I found he was altogether against, and said he would
not admit it ; and thereafter 1 did not hear of it till one night very late, I think
the night before that overture was proposed in the Committee, I was sent for to
the Abbey, and came to the Duke's chamber, where he told me that severals had
been speaking to the Commissioner for that way of billeting, and that they had,
at least, obtained his leave to propose it to the Committee. Thereafter the pro-
position was brought in to that Committee appointed for fines, where all the
members were under oath of secrecy, so I dare not relate anything that passed
there ; but some of your Lordships were members of that court, and do no doubt
remember what passed. But since I hear some have said that I proposed it, I
do confidently deny, and I do humbly entreat, that this may be examined ; and
I humbly propose that the Chancellor, to whom all speech was directed, and
the Clerk of Eegister, whose office puts him to special attention, may be examined
if I did propose it or not. Twice, I think it was, before the Committee at last
allowed it, and appointed it to be brought in to the Articles. Thereafter, I do
not doubt but severals employed themselves in soliciting the Members of Parlia-
ment, in order to persons to be excepted ; and I was invited by the Duke of
Richmond to dine with him one day at Mortoun's, where, after dinner, proposing
that we might resolve unanimously in the excepting of persons, I craved his
Grace and the rest pardon, that I found I could not meddle in that ; since my
employment differenced me and them, in respect of my late attendance upon his
Majesty. "Whereupon I went away immediately, neither speaking nor doing any
thing in order to that, which motive likewise keeped me from consulting of any,
or offering advice in that affair ; and if it had been so, it is too probable I had
been as active as any, as the humour then run : but because of that, I never
meddled in it, nor did I write my OAvn billet, till I came into the house for giving
in our billets, where, at the desire of a gentleman that sat by me, I shew him
my billet, he having first shewed his to me ; and except that, I never shew my
billet, nor declared my opinion in order to persons to any.

" Now, my Lord, I do expect, as in all my steps in this matter, to meet here
also with some addition of misfortune ; and that thus the beginning and carrying
on of this was of so little contrivance, and indeed so foolish in its method, that I
doubt I shall be believed in this account. But that inconvenience must not be


my director : I am sworn, and upon the hazard of my soul declare it to be truth ;
so I humbly refer it to a charitable consideration."

Besides Lord Tarbat, other ten persons were examined on the subject of
the billeting, and each of them stated in his deposition the particular part
which he had taken. "With one exception, these witnesses do not appear
to have implicated Lord Tarbat as the actual author of the scheme of
billeting. The single witness referred to deponed that he saw Lord Tarbat's
billet, with the name of the Earl of Lauderdale ; and Lord Tarbat said that
it was the King's pleasure that twelve should be incapacitated.

The following is the speech which Lord Tarbat delivered in the Par-
liament of 1663, in his own defence : —

" I am not only sorry for my misfortune in being employed to negotiate an
affair, the result whereof hath offended his Majesty, but I likewise confess that
my age, unacquaintedness, and unfitness every way for acting in so great affairs
could not but produce both escapes and errors in my actions and discourses ; and
in so far as what is in his Majesty's royal letter doth concern me, either in reproof
or censure, I do most humbly acquiesce under it : nor would I have adventured on
a vindication had not his Majesty graciously appointed inqiiiry, which imports an
allowance of defence ; and in order thereto, I offer thir things to consideration.
But before I build the defence, I shall crave leave to la}' first two positions for a
base, which all the rational world have concluded unmoveable truths. One is,
that Avhen words are capable of various interpretations, the circumstances give
restriction to their exposition ; for if by time, place, person, and coherence, one
sense be rendered morally impossible, then, by moral necessity, they must be
understood in that other sense whereof they are cap)able. The other position is,
that whatever envoys or deputies say in message, their words are both spoke and
understood in personam mandantis ; ef qiiamvis loquitur ])er se, non tamen a se : for so
law and lawyers difference him from a procurator. They say further, that e.4
quasi epistola, et nuuquam ohligatur ; sohimmodo ejus superior tenetur in syndicatu.

" From the first I infer, that albeit what I said or proposed to his Majesty as
the desire or mind of the Parliament, when this is nakedly spoke, it may import
the desire of a Parliament by their public vote, or their mind and sense made


known by private conference, or such other ways as a Commissioner or Officer of
State ought to take for trying the temper of a Parliament, thereby the better to
know how to manage their trust : yet when it is bound by these circumstances