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

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not accuse me of infidelity in less or more in your Majesty's service.

I have now served the Crown above 54 years, and in that tyme I never

' Original obligation, vol. iii. No. 171 of House.] On the 13th of May 1704, Queen

Cromartie Papers. Anne appointed Lord Cromartie Sheriff of

- His commission as Lord Justice-General Cromartie and Justiciar of Tarbat, with all

is dated 17th October 1704 ; and, on the same the jirivileges of these offices.— [Original

date, he obtained a pension of £600. — [Ori- Commission, Bundle 3 N, No. 13, of Cromartie

ginal Commission and Grant, Bundle 3 0, Papers, at Tarbat House.]
No8. 1, 2, of Cromartie Papers, at Tarbat

1714] LETTER TO QUE EX ANNE. cliii

plunged into any faction, nor evei' changed my principles, which keept me poor,
when others, by other methods, have doubled their estates ; but I envy not those.

I did hope when I was called up from a resolved retreat from the publick,
that this my last schen sould have been the happiest.

I hop'd the vnion of the 2 Kingdoms, and tho' it hath as yett faild, I still wisli
it, and I doe still think that, and that only, will both redress and prevent several
great evils which threatn Brittaine, and I will, whilst I breath, wish it, and (if I
can) will concurr to it.

The other thing I hop'd was a restauration of the monarchicall principall and
party in Scotland, but the measurs aimed at did soon alter : in that I submit my
little judgment. But allow me to say, in humility, I fear your Majesty may wish
it had been otherwayes, for now if a fanatick party in England shall attempt to
react 1641, Scotland's assistaunt is readier for them then it was then, and the
true monarchicall party will be impotent. But I pray God that your Majesty
may never feell it. I hope I shall not see it. As to my present post, I shall be
glad of the honor to die in your Majesty's service. I shall be surly faithfull, and
I should know the station [as well] at least as another, haveing formerly served in
it without reproach. But, [your] Majesty, I hope not to be put to dependance on
a faction for it, especially a W[higgish] one. I never did and cannot now learn to
depend on any but my Soveraign. And if any accusation be made, I hope your
Majesty will heare me before you trust, and more befor your Majesty judge.

If allowd to writ, if I be wrongd, and then to tell of my memoriall, and to
leave it for memorie.

In the office of Lord Justice-General, Lord Cromartie had more leisure
to prosecute the Union between Scotland and England, on which he had so
intently set his heart. He supported the measure for the Union in his
place in Parliament, and he also wrote and published essays in favour of the
LTnion. His private letters on the subject are very remarkable. He was
succeeded in the office of Secretary of State by John Erskine, Earl of Mar,
the hero of the insurrection on behalf of the Stuart family in the year 1715.
Lord Cromartie being also an Erskine through his mother, and Lord Mar
being a Mackenzie through his grandmother, Lady Mary Mackenzie, eldest


daughter of George second Earl of Seaforth, there was a close friendship,
as well as a Scotch cousinship, between the ex-Secretary and his successor.
They maintained a continuous correspondence from the time of the accession
of Lord Mar, as Secretary, down to the time when he ceased to be Secretary,
in the year 1714 ; although for several years after the Union Lord Mar held
another office tlian that of Secretary for Scotland, till he was appointed one
of the Secretaries for Great Britain. Lord Cromartie had great confidence in
the friendship of Lord Mar. He writes to him, — " I can much rely on the
Earl of Marr, because that family hath been so long right that I confide in its
honesty, as haveing acquired a thrid and new habit of honesty. The schools
know none but what 's infused, or acquired by reiterated acts ; but that family
hath a naturall habit to right, unless some unhappy man interrupt it." -^

The letters addressed by Lord Cromartie to Lord Mar must have been
very numerous, and a large collection of them is still in the Mar Charter-
chest. They came under the notice of the Author in the course of his in-
vestigations connected with the claim of the late Earl of Kellie to the Mar
peerage, and his Lordship generously placed the correspondence at his disposal
in connection with the present work. A considerable portion of them is
printed in this collection. On a reference to these letters, it will be seen how
vigorously Lord Cromartie supported the Union. Writing to Lord Mar in
1705, his Lordship says, that a man without doors can say little to purpose
of the public transactions, and he never was, nor would he then begin to be an
intruder, — that being odious to the General Assembly, and against both Claim
of Eight and Act of Parliament. He adds, " Yet I may say over ane old
prayer of mine : God send a solid Vnion in, and of, Brittaine ! — for I am
sorly afraid, and firmly perswaded, that such will, only will, secure Brittaine,
and deliver old Scotland from its many complaints. If England will give

^ Letter, vol. ii. p. 15.

1714.] HE SUPPORTS THE UNIOX,l'i{)o. civ

us free trade with them and theirs, and take of the act of navigation, at least
if they extend it to ships of Scots -built, in so farr I should be pleased, for I
hate a ruptur or division with England more than I doe other greevances on
us. But I will not hope thes two untill England give me sure grounds to
hope so. As to factions, animosities, emulations, the itch of place and pen-
sion, dissimulation, false calumnies, small and great pox, feavers and con-
sumptions, both in nobility and the other two states, I cast my account, and
patienza !" ^ Writing on the 1st of January 1706, he says — " On this new
year many happy years are wished by him to an entire union with England
in substantials, that both head and body might be one politic body." He
quaintly adds — " Unless wee be a part each of other the vnion will be as a
blood puddin to bind a catt, i.e., till one or the other be hungry, and then the
puddin flyes. God give all of yow prudence, wisdome, and honesty, and
Brittish minds. May wee be Brittains, and down goe the old ignominious
names of Scotland, of England. Scot or Scotland are words not known in
our native language ; England is a dishonorable name, imposed on Brit-
tains by Jutland pirats and mercinaries to Brittains, usurping on their Lords.
Brittains is our true, our honorable denomination. But of this more, per-
haps, heerafter." -

Only a fortnight later Lord Cromartie recurs to his favourite topic of the
Union, and urges it with his usual earnestness ; and as he thinks the Union
a great measure, he prays for it, if it be by way of federation, so that it be
good and sure, or an incorporating, which he thinks can hardly be bad or
unsure, so that it effects a solid peace, affection, and proportionable advan-
tages by peace, trade, or war, to all parts of the island.^ Only three days
afterwards his Lordship again urges on Lord IMar the important question

^ Letter, dated 17tli November 1705, vol. i. p. 296.

2 Letter, vol. ii. pp. 1,2. ^ Ibid. pp. 3, 4.


of the Union. He says he is always the same, i.e. for a full and incorporat-
ing Union, as against what he calls the romantic federal union, and he gives
many cogent reasons in support of his views.^

A few months afterwards Lord Cromartie again recurs to the question of
the Union, in his correspondence with the Earl of Mar. He writes to Lord
Mar that he wishes the Union, and a true, effectual, and no sham Union,
established. He hopes that though prudence and honesty should make all
Britons for it, yet if they fail, necessity and foresight of danger, by dis-
union, will force it over the tricks of self-designing opponents. He says that
if he were beside the Duke of Marlborough, he would venture to tell his
Grace that, though nobody thinks with more honour of all his great actions,
not one of them — no, not Blenheim itself — can be of so great advantage to
aU Britain, if he contribute to make all that one. Lord Cromartie adds that
whatever party be for the Union, he shall be of that party. He even adds
that he will be of that party though it consisted of his private enemies.'^

In another letter. Lord Cromartie assures Lord Mar of his satisfaction that
so many in England are for an incorporation of Britain. Eederation is not
worth the pains, and will be an Egyptian reed, and the mother of future
dangers and discords on some unhappy occasion. In the same letter, after dis-
cussing other topics, he again repeats that he is taken with the incorporating
Union, because he is old, and in long experience of slavery ; and he wishes
to leave the nation free of the first, and at least in the road to leave the
other. He says he is no slave to his present sentiment, but ready to leave
its command when he sees a better fellow. But he must see him before
he loves him.

Another nobleman with whom Lord Cromartie corresponded about the
Union was David fourth Earl of Northesk, who was the husband of his

1 Letter, vol. ii. pp. 5, G. ^ Ibid. p. 14.

1714.] HE SUPPORTS THE UNION, 1707. clvii

stepdaughter, Lady Margaret Wemyss. Lord Northesk himself was also a
strenuous supporter of the Union. In a letter written by Lord Cromartie,
apparently to Lord Northesk, shortly before the Union, he enlarges on his
favourite subject of the prosecution of herring and other fishings. The letter
contains several practical suggestions on the subject, and the views of the
writer are enforced in a variety of forms to show the value of prosecuting the
fishings. It is clear from this letter, and the other productions of Lord
Cromartie, that he had studied the subject very carefully.^

Besides advocating the Union in his extensive correspondence, Lord
Cromartie also supported it by his speeches in the Parliament of Scotland.
Two of these speeches are preserved in manuscript. They enforce very
earnestly his views for a full and incorporating Union between Scotland and
England, and reprobate a mere Federal Union, which he considered to be
dangerous to both countries."

In the first election of the sixteen representative Peers for Scotland after
the Union, Lord Cromartie was not elected. The Government could not
make room for him in the crowd of claimants. He was not well pleased,
as Lord Mar wrote to the Earl of Stair, but he was so generous as to do
the Government no harm. He only named four, whom he called his own
children. Mar, Wemyss, Leven, and Northesk ; and because he named not
sixteen, he was protested against, but it signified nothing.^

1 Original Copy Letter at Tarbat Hoiise. ^ Original Letter, dated 20th June 1708, in

2 Original Copy Speech, ibid. the Mar Charter-chest.




VV HEN" the Union was at length accomplished, Lord Cromartie wrote to
Lord Godolphin, High Treasurer of England, a long letter on the subject,
and as his Lordship thought that this might probably be his last letter to
the Treasurer, he bespeaks his indulgence while offering him his candid
opinion after an employment of fifty-six years in public affairs. He says
that buying of servants in Scotland, by enlarging their salaries, had seldom
made any of them better servants, but made many others worse subjects.
He suggests the abolition of useless offices, and several other measures for
the purpose of carrying out the Union.^

Before the British Parliament assembled under the Union, Lord Cromartie
wrote to Lord Mar his opinion on various subjects, and he alludes to his
wish to serve Lord Mar and his family, which he says may partly lie in
Erskine, partly in Mackenzie blood,^ an expression which may be readily
understood from the explanation already given, that Lord Cromartie's mother
was an Erskine, and Lord Mar's grandmother a Mackenzie. He beseeches
Lord Mar to adhere to his fondness for the Union, for he is persuaded that
it was, and is, the chief politic good of Britain. Lord Cromartie adds : —
" I labourd (and with as much heat somtymes as discretion) in it for 40
years, through good report and ill report. I was often scornd by some who
now glorie in it. I am farr from repenting it : it hath in it the true nature of
good : it is good in its worst view. But no sublunary thing is at first perfect.
It is ane infant as yett, and needs a nurse. It was exposed as a Moses, in

1 Letter, vol. ii. pp. 27-30. ^ ij^yi pp 36-38.


a flotting baskett, recovered unexspectedly, and by a king's daughter ; and now
more then that, I pray God shee may pitch on good nurses." His Lordship de-
precates divisions which might again make the united nation look like two.
He also urges very earnestly the prosecution of fishing, on which he thinks the
richest trade and power are founded. He demonstrated this to King Charles
in a debate in his closet with Mr. Slingsby so early as the year 1662, and he
could do so again ; and he beseeches Lord Mar to work with as great zeal
and constancy for establishing both herring and cod fishings in Scotland, by
Scotch hands and English direction, and British stocks, as Lord Cromartie
himself did for the Union, and he dared prophesy that no potentate in Europe
could hinder them from the greatest and best-founded trade in it. He did
not think to live to see it — seventy-five years old being too low for that — but
while he lived he would wish it, and endeavour it, as far as a wearied age
could act. He says that a vigorous fishery is a better mine for Scotland than
the Indies can afford, for theirs will never grow, while ours do every year.
Meat never wants market, and so can never want vent or vendition, and to
fell two dogs with one stone, set up Eome and cause Carthage to fall, by
fairly taking off the base on which it did rise, and yet without hindering
the Dutch from the claim of their greatest man and greatest lawyer (Grotius),
viz., Mare liherum. For though they fish with us, they can never equal us,
if English purses, Scots hands and provisions, and Britain's strength join
cordially and prudently.

Lord Cromartie, in a note holograph of his Lordship, thus refers to his
exertions for the Union. " Now for 46 years under my five crowned
masters, for my tyme was little, and ray service under King Charles, and
who was my seventh master, was short, and my capacity wanted all experi-
ence, which now makes the best part of what I have."

In another paper on the Supreme Civil Courts, Lord Cromartie refers


to his constant services of forty-seven years, in one or other notable

Lord Eoss of Halkhead having made an attempt to obtain a grant of
the Earldom of Ross, which would have made him the feudal superior
of many of the heritors of the shire of Ross, Lord Cromartie was indignant
at the idea of being made a feudal vassal of a nobleman who had no
connection with the family or Earldom of Ross, and wrote a memo-
randum on that subject for the Earl of Mar, then Secretary of State.
He asked the Secretary to inform her Majesty that he was an old and
faithfid servant to the Crown, and to her Majesty, longer than any in her

Lord Cromartie also pleaded for consideration as Justice- General. He
said, — " With submission I humbly think that the Justice-Generall, who is
president to the first court of law in the kingdom, and, indeed, the court
which hath the most immediate relation and jurisdiction to the Crown in all
its concerns, except in its revenue, should have its sallary at least in pro-
portion with the presidents of other courts, which hath only the judgement
of private causes ; and the rather because the Justice Court will by the Union
have double the trouble and double the use that it hade formerly, when a
privie councell, having little els to doe, did take up itself in the causes that
did naturally belong to the Justice Court, and most now again fall under
their care and cognizance."

The writer also reminds Lord Mar that he had a liferent right of the
admiralty from the Duke of Lennox, of all the bounds from the mouth of
Spey, upon the east sea, round by Pentland Eirth, and all the west coast, to
the head or Cape of Ardnamurchan, and of all the adjacent isles, except the
Orcades. He adds that his title from Lennox is good, and is her Majesty's
own title by a particular bargain with the Duke of Lennox (which her


Majesty may be pleased to remember, was a bargain both proposed and con-
cluded for her Majesty's service).^ Lord Cromartie thus contmues : —

I never sought a donative of land rent or few-duty from her Majesty or her
predicessors, when others were getting them in very considerable numbers and

If her Majesty will be pleased to dispone to me my few-duties of a peice
land and miln called the davachland of Meddat, the few-duty whereof may be
about 50 lib. sterling per annum, and if she will be pleased to honour me with
granting it as a token of her Eoyall favour for my service in the Union, I will have
it rather than any other onerous cause whatsomever. I will quitte my admirality,
for I would be sorry to have any occasion of debate with your Lordship, and far
less with his Eoyall Highness ; and I will thank your Lordship if you will
remember him of me, his most humble and faithfull servant, and a little chief of
the only Norvegian family remaining in Scotland, viz., the race of Olaus, one of
the last Eoyalets of Man, and of his son Leodus, who was heritor of the Island
of Lewes, and this little matter also I intreat you.

As to the claim of Lord Eoss, Lord Cromartie says :—

" All the tidling of this hot-headed fool (whom I did but too much obleidge)
is that, having made of late a new kind of purchass in Eoss of a reversion of David
Eoss of Bellnagowan lands, on which he dreamed him self some fantastick great
thing, he would needs have him and his elected for the representative of five
shires and seven burghs in the north, and severall others in the south.

" One thing has turned his head round since ever he midled with Bellnagowan,
that he bemg call'd Eoss, and having a reversion of a peice land in Eoss, he must
therefore be successor to and will needs be Earle of Eoss, who is indeed one of
the first Earles in Scotland, and hade great superiorities : but unluckily, my Lord,
who is indeed ane old west country laird, knowing nothing of the Earledome of

1 Lord Cromartie, then Sir George Macken- The Deputation was confirmed by Charles

zie of Tarbat, was appointed by James Earl Duke of Lennox and Richmond, for life, at

of Newburgh, Vice-Admiral of Scotland, to be Whitehall, 19th March 1668.— [Extract from

Admiral-depute within the north seas of Scot- Admiralty Books, where it is registered 31st

land, benorth the water of Spey, east and July 1712. Cromartie Papers, vol. xxi. No.

west sides thereof, 29th December 1662. 26, at Tarbat House.]

Eoss, of the Earles, of their rights, of their rise or fall, and having no more rela-
tion to them, directly or indirectly, than the milner of Carstairs has to the Prince
of Parma. He does not know that the Earles of Ross were never above 200
yeares Earles of Ross ; that in that tyme there was two of them of the name of
McDonald, two of the name of Lessly, and three before that of no sirname, but
that thej'' were called Gulielmus or Hugo de Rosse, as being Earles of Ross : he
might have known, hade he read any of our history, that these few were in frequent
rebellions, that they were very early forfeited, that the Earledome was annexed to
the Crown in perpetuitie, and that by a precise and solemn Act of Parliament it
is statute that the King shall never dispone it to any but to a second son, and
that it should be alwayes a tittle to the second son, and that it was so with all the
.Scots kings when they hade second sons.

" It was foolish in my Lord to think that the Queen's servants were ignorant
in those things as himself : but to discover the further impudence of his project,
it is fitt that her Majesty and her servants know that very considerable families
have parts of this Earledome of Rosse, some of which would be so vain as to think
my Lord but a little man either in Scotland, Brittain, or in himselfe. Such are
the Earle of Seaforth and severall other considerable heritors of that name, the
Earle of Cromerty, Rosehaugh, S[c]atwall, Gerloch, Coul, Redcastle, Culcoy, Fowles,
Culrain, Kilravack, Cadboll, Fairburn, Tullach, M^Leod of Lewes, M'Donald,
Aple Cross, Davachmoluag, Suddie, manie of which does not think my Lord Ross
tltt to be their superior; and it does not seem probable that her Majesty or her
Councellers will allow the interposition and the constituting of any new man, or
other man, to have superiority, not over persons, but over so many clanns and
considerable ones. [Original Memorandum at Tarbat House.]

Two years later Lord Cromartie wrote another paper on the state of the
Shire of Ross, and also referring to the attempt of Lord Ross to obtain a
grant of the Earldom. The opposition of Lord Cromartie to the wished-for
grant of the Earldom of Ross was successful, as Lord Ross never obtained
any such grant of that ancient Earldom.

Lord Cromartie continued to hold the office of Justice-General till the
year 1710, when he was in his eightieth year. And having served the
public in that, and various other important offices, for the long period of

1714.] ARREARS OF SALARY, 1705. clxiii

sixty years, he now finally resigned that office, and retired into private life.
His salaries and pensions were not paid with that exemplary punctuality
which the officers of the Crown can reckon upon at the present day. In the
time of Lord Cromartie, there were frequently great contentions and scram-
blings for the payment of salaries and pensions. In his correspondence
with Lord Mar, he often alludes to the non-payment of the money due to
him. In a letter to the latter, dated 23d October 1705, Lord Cromartie
reminds him — " Ex officio, the intrant secretary should assist the exeant to be
payed of his bygones. I want £1100 sterling of my very dues. I have her
Majesties letter for my self and all succeeding secretars payments to be
made ante omnes ; and in justice it should be so, for he most advance it,
which all the other officers needs not doe, besides many other reasons." *

Lord Cromartie frequently recurs to the subject of his arrears of salary.
He writes to Lord Mar on the injustice of not paying salaries which are over
due, especially where, by the Queen's express appointment, the secretaries
should be paid^rwio loco, and yet others are preferred long before them. He
feelingly alludes to his having too long served the Crown unchallenged of
failure, except of having over zeal, for which he suffered, to be now either
guilty or condemned unheard.^

He subsequently wrote to Lord Mar that unless his arrears of salary were
paid, he was thinking of taking refuge in the sanctuary of the Abbey of
Holyrood ; and he complained of the injustice of paying the salaries of other
ministers in preference to his own, which was promised by the Queen to be
paid before all others. Lord Cromartie wishes Her Majesty to be informed
that he is " barbarously used," and declares that if he deserved no riches, he
never deserved such unusual hardship from the Crown or Eoyal Family.^

1 Letter, vol. i. pp. 289, 290. 3 Letter of 22cl Nov. 1705, vol. i. p.

2 Letter of 17th Nov. 1705, vol. i. p. 295. 298.


Lord Mar was stirred up to make provision for the arrear of Lord Cro-
martie's salary, although he pleads the poverty of the Treasury as an excuse
for not paying the salaries to live on, and reminds his correspondent that the
writer is a Mackenzie, and their interest would not suffer where he could help
it.^ Lord Mar here refers to his grandmother, who, as already stated, was
Lady Mary Mackenzie, eldest daughter of George second Earl of Seaforth.

Still pursuing the subject of the arrear of his salaries. Lord Cromartie
says he hears he is to have no payment till the Commissioners of Treaty from
the Parliament ; and if so, he will study to borrow as much as will carry his
own bones up to complain, vaU que vale, as Squire Meldrum said.^

He also complained to the Lord Treasurer, the Duke of Queensberry,