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

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got to Balbirny Bridge, where he met Lord Melville and Lord Leven going to pay
a visit to the Wemyss. My Lord was surprised at Duncan's speedy return, but
was not alarmed for himself at first ; but his son, from all the circumstances of the
story, prevailed on him to go directly to the ferry, and wait there till they heard
what became of the dragoons, and Duncan went to Melville to give them informa-
tion. About eleven that night the party came to Melville, and showed their Avar-
rant for apprehending my Lord and his son, and, on missing them, they carried
off some arms and some horses." '^

Lord Melville succeeded in escaping to London, and thence to Holland.
His estates were forfeited on the death of King Charles the Second in 1685,
and eiven to the Earl of Melfort, but were restored at the Eevolution. The
attainder proceeded chiefly on the charge of intercommuning with the rebels
before Bothwell Bridge ; but in the proceedings for the reversal of the for-
feiture, Lord Tarbat said that both the King and the Duke of Monmouth had
several times told him that they had employed Melville to persuade the
rebels to lay down their arms, and that he wrote instructions which the King
signed and delivered to Monmouth in his presence, to the same effect.

The following exoneration by King William to Lord Tarbat was granted
on the 25th of April 1689 :—

1 Leveu and Melville Papers, pp. xiii-xv.

" AVhereas we have thought fit to put the records of our Kingdom of Scotland
into the hands of untill we shall have considered how to dis-

pose of the same ; and finding that our right trustie and well beloved George
Lord Tarbat hath readily offered to deliver the said records upon oath, in the
accustomed manner, and understanding that the said Lord Tarbat hath not only
exercised that charge faithfully and diligently, but done similar service to the
Crown and Kingdom, in putting the principal evidences in order and method, and
in recovering many considerable evidences which were missing to many of our
Hedges, do therefore exonerate and discharge him of his said trust and office, and
approve his service therein ; and in consideration thereof, and of his long services,
we do further, of our grace and by our royal power, give to him our good will,
favour, and protection, and do secure him from all danger in his person or estate,
notwithstanding of any actings, writings, councils, speaches, or any crimes com-
mitted by him, in any of his public capacities or services, before the
day of this instant ; and we promise to pass an ample remission to him, under our
great seal thereupon ; and because of his age and weakness by sickness, we dis-
pense with his attendance at public meetings of any sort, unless we, by our
special mandate, call him on any occasion ; and we will this to be as valid to him
in all respects, and to all effects, as if this discharge and remission were expressed
in full form, and had passed our seals, quherewith we dispense in ample manner,
and fullest interpretation of our royal favour and good will towards him. Given
at our Court at Hampton Court, the day 1689.^

The following letter from the King to Lord Melville was sent to the latter
with the exoneration to Lord Tarbat : —

My Lord, — . . . Since you think my Lord Tarbat can be serviceable in quieting
the North, I hope you will encourage his going thither, and to that end I have sent
ycni his discharge in the form it is desired, which you make use of or not, as you see
opportunity. A distribution of money among the Highlanders being thought the
likeliest way to satisfy them, I have given orders for 5 or 6 thousand pounds to
be sent to Major-General Mackay for that purpose, as also for 2 Frigates to cruize
on the north-east coast as you desire, and hope, in sometime, our affairs will be in
so good a posture that we shall not apprehend an invasion from Ireland, but

^ The Leven and Melville Papers, pp. 14, 15.


rather be iu a condition to send over some suflBcient force to support the British
interest there. — April 25th, 1689.i

It appears from a letter, supposed to be by Sir James Stewart, Lord
Advocate, dated 24th May 1689, that there was a prospect of the Duke of
Queensberry and Viscount Tarbat being brought again into the Government.
Some, indeed, thought that Lord Tarbat would either be Lord Chancellor, or
have his own place of Lord Clerk-Eegister.^

On the other hand, the Duke of Hamilton wrote to Lord Melville, on 1st
June 1689, that the Privy Council, on the information of General Mackay,
had resolved on securing in prison the Lords Tarbat and Lovat ; for on what
General Mackay had reported, they thought they could do no less.^

In a letter from Lord Tarbat to Lord Melville, supposed to be dated 1st
June 1689, he says that he did wish, and would have endeavoured that all
the King's enemies should have submitted to him, and that all the worthy
ecclesiastics in the nation might have owned him and their duty, that so he
might not be the King of a party, nor want a great part of the hearts and
hands of Scotland.*

In another letter, marked as of the same date. Lord Tarbat at great length
expresses his good wishes for his Majesty's success, on which he says, he is
convinced depends not only the happiness of Scotland, but, under God, the
true security of our reformed religion.^

The tactics which were pursued by Lord Tarbat and his friends in
the famous Billeting Act, for excluding their opponents from office, were
threatened to be turned against him and his friends by those now in power.
This is indicated in a letter from the Earl of Crawford to Lord Melville, dated
11th June 1689, in which he says that those aimed at are the Duke of

1 The Leven and Melville Papers, p. 1-5. ^ The Leven and Melville Papers, p. 3.3.

- Ihid. pp. 2.3, 2-4. * Ibid. p. 35. ■' Ibid. p. 37.


Queensberry, Lord Tarbat, Lord Stair, the Master of Stair, and Sir George
Mackenzie, late Lord Advocate/

Sir Patrick Hume of Polwarth in a letter indicates a feeling against giving
office to Lord Tarbat, which raised an objection to Lord Melville himself.^

In a series of letters, eight in number, and several of them of consider-
able length, Lord Tarbat makes many suggestions to Lord Melville as
to the best mode of carrying on the business of the Government. In
these letters the writer shows much shrewdness and experience, both in
civil and ecclesiastical affairs, as well as in the abstruse subject of the coining
of money, the currency, exchanges, etc. The range of subjects discussed by
his Lordship is very extensive, and includes the herring fisheries, the multi-
plicity of lawyers, etc.^

At the same time Lord Tarbat wrote a separate memorial in relation to
the Church, the object of which appears to have been the recognition or
establishment of Episcopacy as weU as Presbytery.^

Notwithstanding the exoneration, formerly quoted, given by King William
to Lord Tarbat as Clerk-Eegister, a commission was afterwards gi-anted by
the King, in January 1690, to take his Lordship's oath that he had not
embezzled the registers. The Lords of Session appointed several of their
number to inspect the registers, in the same way as was done when Sir
Thomas Murray of Glendoik succeeded Sir Archibald Primrose as Lord
Kegister. The Lords suggested that the King might give exoneration to
Lord Tarbat, and make an Inventory of those portions of the registers
which had been received since the former Inventory was made, and which
had been recorded in the Books of Council and Session for convenience
of reference. The former ignorance of the registers, it is added, was the

' The Leven and Melville Papers, p. 53. ^ The Leven and Melville Papers, p. 108,

- IhUl. p. 95. et seq. * Ihkl. p. 125.


cause of much expense to many who were obliged to give great compositions
for finding out and extracting ancient writs.^

The waiTant which was granted by King William to Lord Tarbat to
pacify the clans is in the following terms : —

"William K — We doe by these comand and authorize yow, G[eorge]
V[iscount] T[arbat], to treat with the Highlanders who are in rebellion against
us in Scotland, viz., with Sir Donald M'Donell, M'Lean, the Captain of Clanranell,
Glengary, Lochiell, M'" Colline M'Kenzie, unckle to the Earl of Seafort, and
others there associats, depender.s and followers, for bringing them in to submit to
our Royall autority and lawes, and secure there obedience to us : And for that end
to treat and comune with them, ether by word or writt, by himself, or such others
as he thinks fitt to employ ; and wee not only authorize and impower the said
Viscount so to doe, but wee by these secure him and those imployed by him from
all danger, hurt, and inconvenience whatsoever, that he may incurr by treating or
comuneing with these rebels, or any of them, quhether they be forfaulted, out-
lawed, or declared fugitives. And for incouradging those Highlanders to return
to there duty, wee doe heerby impower the said Viscount to offer, in our name,
such honor under that of Earle, and such summes of money, not exceeding
£2000 sterling, to any on cheeff and tribe of these above mentioned ; as also to
secure them in all they possess be law, or were secured in by gifts from our royall
vnckle King Charles, under his Great Seall of Scotland, and to indemnify them,
and evry on of them, who shall come in and submitt to us and our lawes in maner
forsaid, against all accusationes, punishment, and danger, from all crimes and deeds
committed by them, proceeding there submission ; and wee promise to perform
what the said Viscount shall undertake in our name in the matters, according to
what is above said. — Whithall, the 25 March 1690."2

It appears from Lord Tarbat's letters to Lord Melville that this Com-
mission was attended with much trouble. He complains of the evils of
the Highland war and robberies.^

King William and Queen Mary were, however, so sensible of the services

1 The Leven and Melville Papers, p. 373. ■' Ibid. p. 551, et seq. Vide also pp. 82,

- Ibid. pp. 422-423. S3, In/ra.


rendered to them b J Lord Tarbat that they granted him in 1690 a pension
for life of £400, payable yearly out of the feu-duties and casualties of the
Earldom of Eoss and Lordship of Ardmanach.^

After having been much occupied with many matters for several years,
subsequent to the accession of King William, Lord Tarbat was employed
under that sovereign, by reappointment to his former office of Lord Clerk-
Eegister. His patent is dated 3d March 1692, and he continued to hold
that position for four years, when he resigned in 1696. On his retirement,
he received from the King a pension of £400 per annum.

In 1693, the year after he had accepted his former office of Lord Eegister,
there are indications in the correspondence that it was coveted by others. In
a letter to him by John first Earl of Breadalbane, dated fromLondon, Decem-
ber 7, 1693, he refers to the scheme for laying Lord Tarbat aside, specially
for the sake of his post, although that was not encouraged by the King."^
The same writer, in a subsequent letter, dated London, March 8, 1694, again
refers to contemplated changes. He says that he is clearing his baggage to
be ready at the King's return from Winchester, and when he met Lord
Tarbat they would resolve whose turn it should be next.^

In the following year, 1695, Lord Tarbat was in correspondence with
Mr. William Carstares about his position as Lord Clerk-Eegister. His Lord-
ship refers to the temper of the hot party. He asks Mr. Carstares to repre-
sent to his jNlajesty that he is not afraid of his adversaries, for he is not
guilty of a thought prejudicial to him, nor wearied of serving him. But if
the King think it either fit or easy to please a party with allowing Lord
Tarbat's wish for a private life, he is willing to resign a beneficial office to
serve him, as they can trouble his Lordship until they obtain it. He pro-

1 Original grant, Bundle 3 N., Xo. 7 of Cromartie Papers.

2 Letter, vol. i. p. 102. 3 j^i^ p_ jQa.


mises to be as zealous for the person and interest of the King when in a
private, as if he were in the highest station.^

In another letter Lord Tarbat asivs ]\Ir. Carstares to procure for him a
general remission, because he saw that faults were fished for in others on no
great grounds. He asks that it may contain treason, perduellion, and a
general remission of all crimes, though on all that's sacred, his Lordship said,
he did not know himself guilty, nor did he fear anything on this side of Irish
witnesses or evidence.^

Lord Tarbat further refers to his proposed retirement in another letter to
Mr. Carstares. He also complains of the ill usage of his friend the Earl of
Melville, who was attacked by the hot party in the church, and was put from
the secretary's office without an exoneration. His juniors were preferred to
him for presiding in Council and Parliament ; his son's regiment was taken
from him ; he and his son were left out of the commission for auditing of
accounts ; a deputy was forced on his son in the castle ; and all who came
from the Court made it their work to lessen him. Notwithstanding this
long array of grievances, Lord Tarbat did not see a probable way for the
King to manage the true Presbyterian party but by Lord Melville's family,
who, he alleged, if they were countenanced by the King, could do more by
their finger than others can do with both their hands."''

In the same letter Lord Tarbat reminds Mr. Carstares that the King is
too long in filling his post, as that would allay some, and put others from
their foolish expectations, for they " roar and gape " in hopes of it. He
wishes a sober, faithful, and able man to succeed him. But he says that his
opponents will put a beast's skin on every one that is not of their club, and
then hound at him.

From former experience, Lord Tarbat found the necessity of asking the

1 Letter, vol. i. p. 111. "' Ibid. p. 112. 3 /^y p 113


King for an exoneration of his acts as Lord Eegister. His Lordship, in a
letter to Lord Melville, dated 8th November 1690, alludes to some complaint
which had been made against him vrhile he formerly held the same office.
He writes that he is much taken up in defending himself, as late Eegister,
from Alexander j\Iunro, before the Commission ; the pleadings being to be
printed and published perhaps in two languages.^

A more serious charge, however, was made against Lord Tarbat by ]\Ir.
Secretary Johnstoun. A letter from him to Mr. Carstares, dated from Edin-
burgh, May 16, 1699, is printed in the State Papers and Letters of Mr.
Carstares.^ The date 1699 is evidently a misprint for 1693. The letter
refers to Lord Tarbat then acting as Lord Clerk-Eegister. He did not hold
that office in 1699, but he did so in 1693, and the letter is printed between
one dated May 11, 1693, and another dated 19th of the same month and year.
It is plain, therefore, that the date of 16th May 1699 is a mistake for 16th
May 1693. In that letter Secretary Johnstoun shows a bitter feeling against
Lord Tarbat. He says, there have been no reflections in Parliament, except
that Lord Tarbat had been taxed and " catched" grossly malversing in his office
as clerk, both in public and private business in Parliament; and that it
was only to prevent noise that he was not suspended from his office. The
Secretary also refers to Lord Tarbat falsifying the minutes, and to the case of
Lord Collington having declined Lord Tarbat as clerk, for emitting an order
in the name of the Parliament, which order they never gave, in a private
process depending between Lord Tarbat's mother and Lord Collington.
Secretary Johnstoun then refers to a negotiation begmi by Lord Tarbat with
the Secretary, through a friend, for the sale of his office for 50,000 merks.

In another letter, dated from Edinburgh, May 19, 1693, being three days

1 The Leveii and Melville Papers, p. 567.

2 State Papers and Letters addressed to William Carstares, 1774, p. 170.


after the former letter, Secretary Johnstoun writes to Mr. Carstares that Lord
Tarbat had intimated to Lord Collington that he would not be clerk in his
process, and thus prevented the cloud. The Secretary adds that Lord Tarbat
threatens to complain of him to the King. But the Secretary thanks God
that Lord Tarbat cannot accuse him either of perjury or murder, as Lord
Shaftesbury said the Duke would neither call him fool nor papist. Secretary
Johnstoun then explains the irregularity said to be committed by Lord
Tarbat. Letters of Lady Largo had been discovered sufficient to warrant her
being put to the torture if she had been a man. The minutes of Parliament
were sent to London before they were revised and allowed by Parliament. The
Secretary produced these minutes, and challenged the clerks in Parliament.
He had, at the same time, the Parliament's letter to the King, printed at
London before the King received it, though the orders were that no copy
should be given, but one by the Secretary, to be sent to the Queen. The
Secretary explains further, that an hour or two is lost every day by these
minutes, and that the design is plain to ridicule Parliament by ridiculous
minutes. Minutes, printed by Lord Tarbat's order, were produced in Parlia-
ment, in which, after it is declared that the Chancellor, by the Commissioner's
order, had adjourned the Parliament, it is represented as continuing to act on
as if still sitting.^

These are serious charges, particularly by one Officer of State against
another. But it must be observed that while Secretary Johnstoun and the
Lord Eegister Tarbat were acting in the same Government, under the same
Sovereign, they appear to have belonged to a different class of politicians.
Secretary Johnstoun was a younger son of Archibald Johnstoun, Lord
Warriston, who was beheaded at the restoration of King Charles IL for his
active proceedings against his father. James Johnstoun was keen for

1 Carstares' State Papers and Letters, pp. 180-181.


Eevolution principles, and was made Secretary for Scotland in 1692. But
upon tlie passing of the bill for establishing the African Company in the
Scottish Parliament, he was dismissed from all his offices, and never restored
bv King William. Queen Anne made him Lord Eegister in 1704, but he
retained the office for one year only. As it was then the most lucrative
office in Scotland, Secretary Johnstoun seems to have been aiming at it while
making the charges in his private letters to Mr. Carstares against the official
proceedings of Lord Tarbat. From the minuteness with which these charges
are detailed, it is quite possible that a sharp, critical eye like that of Mr.
Johnstoun, whose father had been Lord Eegister, may have detected some
irregularities in the proceedings of Lord Tarbat and his subordinates in office.
But these may have arisen from a difference of opinion between the two
officials as to the proper mode of transacting the public business, and not
from any criminal forging or falsifying of documents. So far as appears from
the Carstares Correspondence, no notice seems to have been taken by King
William of the charges privately made in the letters from his public to his
private secretary. Secretary Johnstoun is described as honest, but some-
thing too credulous and suspicious.^ Whether his charges against Lord
Tarbat arose from credidity and suspicion, or from any other cause, they
cannot be held, while unsubstantiated, to affect the character and official
integrity of Lord Tarbat, who retired from office with the approbation of the
King, and a pension for life of £400 per annum. The Duke of Queensberry,
in writing to his Lordship, thus alludes to this grant :— " If his Majesties
servants there " (London) " are not sensible of the value of my dear Tarbat
for their master's interest, I am sure that I have an advantage over them in
knowing his worth. The small things that were procured to your Lordship
from the King, I doe assure you, were very readily granted ; and he expresses

^ Carstares' State Papers and Letters, p. 93.


himself on all occasions with great satisfaction in your service, and a ])er-
sonal esteem of you." ^ And we shall see that by the succeeding sovereign
he was afterwards recalled to high office, and raised also to higher honours.
These facts appear to be inconsistent with the charges of the credulous and
suspicious Secretary. It is probable that Lord Tarbat never even heard of
these private charges of Secretary Johnstoun, because, in a letter to Queen
Anne, he mentions that he never was accused of any misconduct officially
except by one miscreant, whose criminality in making a false charge against
him was only pardoned by the grace of the Queen."

Ketiring from the office of Lord Eegister in 1G96, Lord Tarbat continued
in a private station during the remainder of the reign of King William. His
correspondence during that period, however, showed that his attention was still
turned to matters of public interest. In a letter from him to Lord Chancellor
Marchmont, dated 1st May 1699, he brings under his notice several matters
then occurring in his own remote part of the country, which he thought con-
cerned his jMajesty's interest and the cjuiet of the Government.^ Lord Tarbat
says, that when he retired to the north he saw all people in great quiet, only
the Highland robbers were injuring many of the peaceable subjects. He
reminds the Chancellor of the suitable remedy which he formerly submitted
to him as to the five northern shires and a part of Nairn, He wishes that
the posting of some 80 or 100 of the forces, from April to December, between
Invermoriston, at the east, and the head of Lochuirn, at the west sea, may be
ordered. That would save these shires, who now repine that the soldiers,
who live in sloth and idleness, are not doing this good office to a considerable
part of the nation, who give their money as frankly as any does for pay to
these forces.

Besides other matters, Lord Tarbat, in the same letter, refers to the posi-

1 Letter, vol. i. p. 140. • Ibid. vol. ii. p. 140. = //,;,/ ^.^^^ j p y^Q


tiou of the Episcopal clergy, who, after qualifying to King William, showed
their loyalty by their peaceable inclinations in the country, where they are
considered as a satisfying branch of the ministry. The clergy, however, were
afraid that the General Assembly might interfere with them, and so cast them
out. But these fears were removed by the rising of the Assembly without
any motion towards that design ; yet it was rumoured that proceedings were
only forborne lest they should encounter opposition on so public a theatre as
the General Assembly, and that the scheme was intended to be prosecuted in
the several presbyteries with more secrecy and greater precipitancy, where
blows miglit be given especially in remoter places. Lord Tarbat confidently
believed that such a course could not be intended by the charity of the
kirkmen, nor permitted by the wisdom of the Government ; but in that he
was mistaken, and he gives an instance of the proceedings of a presbytery
against Mr. Forbes, in the parish of Kilmuir, in Eoss, who had been sum-
moned to appear before them to preach on a text prescribed by them ; thus
to bring him, an old-established minister, to be a probationer, as it were,
before them, who were of very short standing in the ministry, — one only of
them excepted, who, it is said, was not with them. Lord Tarbat then informs
tlie Chancellor that Mr. Forbes is to be libelled as an Arminian, though he is
very far from it, and for some private scandal ; but that the true cause, his
being of the principles of the Church of England, will not be mentioned.^

In the year 1699, Anna Viscountess of Tarbat became seriously indis-
posed, and Lord Tarbat was in anxious correspondence with Dr. Archibald
Stevenson and Dr. Archibald Pitcairne, both then celebrated medical prac-
titioners in Edinburgh, on the subject. The letters are preserved and
printed in tlds collection. Several of the prescriptions recommended may
be interesting to medical men. The famous drops of King Charles are

1 Letter, vol. i. p. 138.