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and Glencairn the one a brutal soldier, the other an
ignorant and presumptuous peer ; and both inflamed
with the passions and folly of men who had long
been exiles. On the other hand, the inexpediency of
such a violent policy was forcibly pressed by Lauder-
dale, Crawfurd, and Hamilton. The debate is set
forth by Mackenzie with considerable dramatic power;
and the argument is all one way. So far as we know,
every Scotchman whose opinion had any claim to
respect, concurred with Lauderdale and Hamilton.
Even the traitor Sharp did not desert the cause he
had undertaken to uphold without some effort on its
behalf. What, then, induced the adoption of a policy,
certainly wicked that, indeed, was a trifling matter
but not less certainly dangerous and cruel, and so
far repugnant to the nature of the king 1 Kirkton
thus accounts for the determination which was arrived
at:

f( They (the bishops) were the best tools for tyranny in the
world ; for do a king what he would, their daily instruction
was, kings could do no wrong, and that none might put forth
a hand against the Lord's anointed and be innocent. The
king knew also that he should be sure of their vote in Par-
liament, desire what he would, and that they would plant a
sort of ministers which might instil principles of loyalty
into the people till they turned them first slaves, and then
beggars."

Such views might well have influenced Charles i. ;
hardly, we think, his more indifferent son. He cer-
tainly disliked Presbyterianism as much as it was in
his nature to dislike anything at a distance ; but
even the recollection of his dismal royalty in Scot-
land would not have reconciled him to the infliction
of great suffering, and to the risk of a desperate re-
sistance. He would have been well content had



BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND. 75

every man in Scotland turned Mahometan, if so only
they gave no trouble to him. But his Ministers were
men of different mould. The vindictive hatred which
Clarendon bore towards the Puritans must have ex-
tended to the Presbyterians ; nor can we believe that
at this time the bigotry of the Duke of York was
without weight in the councils of the king. Never-
theless, the blame of what ensued must rest mainly
with his Scottish advisers. Had the king been fairly
made aware of the consequences of the course he was
following, he would probably have paused. Unhappily,
such men as Lauderdale and Sharp, rather than risk
a temporary loss of court favour, abjured their opinions
and betrayed their trust ; and stooped to the exceed-
ing baseness of persecuting that form of worship in
which they had been brought up and which in their
hearts they preferred.

Principal Tulloch of St. Andrews recently made
an ingenious effort to relieve the memory of Sharp
from the weight of infamy which rests upon it. 1
Every respect is due to such a vindication from such
a quarter from a man who, while a good churchman,
is yet a thorough and steady Liberal. We cannot,
however, think the defence made out. The charge
against Sharp is not, as Principal Tulloch seems to
suppose, that he went to London with any design to
play the traitor. The mission which he undertook he
probably intended to fulfil. But he would not im-
peril his own advancement ; he was unable to with-
stand the slightest frown of power. Animated by no
conceivable motive save mere self-seeking, he deserted
the cause he was sent to support, concealed his perfidy
with a complete cunning, blinding even the most

1 See article, Archbishop Sharp, "North British Review," June 1867 ;
an article stated by Principal Tulloch to be his in "Macmillan's Magazine"
for December 1870.



76 BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

suspicious by his assumption of sanctity, of disap-
pointment, of weariness with the world he all the
while being in effect Archbishop of St. Andrews,
devising the subtlest and safest mode of carrying out
the designs of the court, and waiting only opportu-
nity to oppress his former friends with more than the
proverbial pertinacity and cruelty of a renegade. He
had capacity for affairs, and a courage which com-
mands admiration ; he w T as a faithless partisan, an
obsequious self-seeker, a cruel ruler, an apostate
priest ; and the influence of a profession which, if
insincere, cannot fail to corrupt, debased his nature
even below the nature of Lauderdale.

Mr. Burton has devoted considerable labour to the
character and conduct of Sharp. He has given large
extracts from the Archbishop's correspondence with
Lauderdale, and so brings the man fully and fairly
before us. He, too, entirely rejects Dr. Tulloch's
defence ; and no one, we should think, can read the
77th and 78th chapters of his History without adhesion
to his severer views. Principal Tulloch himself, if we
may judge from an expression in a recent article by
him in " Macmillan's Magazine," seems now to enter-
tain doubts of his own lenient judgment.

It is, indeed, difficult to speak too strongly of the
evil which these men wrought to their country. It
may be urged that no firmness would have success-
fully upheld Presbyterianism against the first fervour
of the Kestoration. But, had Scottish statesmen been
commonly honest, the prelacy established would have
been of a very different type, and would have been
enforced by very different means. Charles himself
was the reverse of a persecutor ; and the ideas which
from time to time gained a temporary ascendency in
his councils, as at the fall of Clarendon, and again at
the overflow of the Cabal, were utterly hostile to such



BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND. 77

a government as the government of Scotland, had
the reality been fully known. Even as it was, what
slight relaxations of the heavy yoke took place from
time to time were all concessions from England ; the
full fierceness of the tyranny was of home growth.
The nobles, no longer apprehensive that the restora-
tion of Episcopacy might involve the resumption of
the church lands, and not indisposed to overthrow a
democratic church, were obsequious to the lightest
wish of the court, and carried the court policy into
excesses from which English statesmen would have
shrunk ; the gentry eagerly followed the lead of their
superiors ; the clergy, from Sharp urging on the fiery
persecution of the Council Board to the curates who
furnished lists of their non-conforming parishioners to
Claverhouse's dragoons, were resolute on the complete
triumph of their own sect; The power was supplied
by England ; the actual work of oppression was in-
trusted to native greed and cruelty. As Mr. Burton
observes, there was a meanness about the whole thing
which makes the designs of Charles and Laud appear
dignified almost excusable. For in them there was at
least something of an idea ; the delusive dream which
mocked the king and the prelate was to restore the
splendour of ceremonial, the wealth of decoration,
the ritualistic symbolism which the Church had lost ;
and without which they believed nor does the
teaching of history contradict them no Church can
hold lasting dominion over the imaginations of men.
But in the Government of the Restoration, the largest
charity can discern no motive which is other than
base, material, and self-seeking. In contrast, even
the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes looks like an
act of statesmanship, dictated, if by intolerance, at
least also by sincerity.

At no period of Scottish history, as we remarked



78 BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

in our former notice of Mr. Burton's book, have her
nobles, as a class, been much to boast of. But the
rulers of this unhappy time had attained a peculiar
eminence in vice. Besides their cruelty, they evinced
a general depravity of nature which it is hard to
parallel. Even the feeling of honour was dead among
them. The assassination of Archbishop Sharp was
doubtless a great crime ; but the guilt of it seems
trivial in contrast with the judicial murder of Mit-
chell, at whose trial all the chief members of the
Privy Council Sharp himself included committed
deliberate perjury, in order to secure the death of a
crazy fanatic, whom they had already half killed with
torture, until even the Scottish Judges of that day hid
their faces with their hands from shame or from
fear.

A curious disposition to defend the Eestoration
Government has lately appeared in some quarters. It
is of recent growth even among Scotch Tories. Hume
calls the legislation of the Scotch Parliament at this
time "an excellent prelude of all the rigours of the
Inquisition ;" and his deliberate judgment is that "it
were endless, as well as shocking, to enumerate all
the instances of persecution, or, in other words, of
absurd tyranny, which at that time prevailed in Scot-
land." But the loyalty of the historian of the house
of Stuart has been rejected as weak by the Tory senti-
mentalists of our day. They accuse even Sir Walter
Scott of leanings towards the Covenant. In order to
the success of this re-hearing of the judgment of
history, the cruelty charged against the Government
must be disproved ; and accordingly much labour has,
with this object, been bestowed on what Mr. Burton,
with a somewhat dismal jocularity of the legal type,
calls the " leading cases " of the Christian carrier and
the Wigtown martyrs. The late Professor Aytoun



BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND. 79

distinguished himself by an elaborate argument to
show that Claverhouse had nothing to do with the
murder of John Brown was not even present at it.
This was conclusively disposed of by Mr. Mark Napier,
who published the original despatch of Claverhouse
himself, giving a cool and minute report of the whole
tragedy. But Mr. Napier having demolished Mr.
Aytoun's position, has set up a novelty of his own,
by propounding a theory that the women commonly
known as the Wigtown martyrs were never drowned
in the Solway at all.

The arguments if they may be so called by which
Mr. Napier endeavoured to maintain his discovery have
been already disposed of in this Journal. 1 We do not
propose to renew the discussion. The matter has been
put beyond the reach of doubt in a volume lately
published by Dr. Stewart, the parish minister of
Glasserton an admirable specimen of historical in-
vestigation ; thorough in research, moderate in tone,
and judicial in its conclusions. Even the patience
and courtesy of Mr. Burton cannot regard the extra-
vagances of Mr. Napier as deserving of a serious
answer. The closing chapters of his history have
conclusively, and, it may be hoped, finally disposed
of these foolish and mischievous attempts to defend
the Scottish administration of Charles n. They are
fair, indeed, and impartial ; because Mr. Burton cannot
write otherwise than fairly and impartially; but here,
at least, he escapes from Arnold's condemnation of
the impartiality of indifference : along his page there
lives a genuine love of liberty and truth which com-
mands our heartiest sympathy and admiration.

Such a struggle as that which we have hastily
sketched could not fail to leave enduring traces. Its
immediate effect was, undoubtedly, to increase the

1 " Edinburgh Review," July 1863.



80 BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

power of the clergy. The sufferings they had under-
gone in the cause' of truth and freedom could not fail
to strengthen their hold upon the people. Beyond
question they misused their power. Not content with
persecuting the fallen prelatists which cannot be
held altogether without excuse they sought to extend
their austere rule over all society ; called in the secular
arm to enforce orthodoxy and morality ; punished
with death alike the folly of expressing heterodox
opinions and the licentiousness of marrying a deceased
wife's sister. Every one remembers the terrible indict-
ment drawn up against them by Mr. Buckle ; but it
is unfair, with Mr. Buckle, to hold the clergy alone
responsible for these cruelties. They were, at the
worst, true exponents of popular feeling. It should
not be forgotten that, irrespective of the influence of
Eeformed doctrine, there grew up all over Europe, at
the close of the sixteenth century, a vehement reaction
against the profligacy of the age. In France that
reaction had shown itself in the austerity of the
Huguenots ; in England it sowed the seeds of Puritan-
ism ; in Scotland it ran to wilder extremes, intensified
by the temper of the people, and the persecution they
had endured, in the cause, as they thought, of morality
and truth. The clergy used their power unsparingly
often iniquitously ; but their power would have been
slight had they not been supported by public opinion.
The statesmen and lawyers who, without the excuse
of sincerity, lent themselves to such a policy, incurred
far deeper guilt. It may have been due to the influ-
ence of the clergy that, after the Eeformation, adultery
was made a capital offence, and fornication brought
under the criminal law ; l but for ecclesiastics to

1 An offender in this sort for the third time, in addition to fine or im-
prisonment, was " to be tane to the deipest and foullest pule, or water of
the towne or parochin, there to be thrice douked ; and thin after banished
the said towne or parochin for ever." Acts of Parliament, 1567.



BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND. 81

mistake the true sphere of jurisprudence is not very
extraordinary or blameworthy. The blame rests
rather with the laymen who allowed such legislation,
and enforced it. One of the most vigorous efforts of
the Scottish tribunals in behalf of morality was the
execution of a tailor for marrying " his first wife's
half brother's daughter;" and that took place in 1630,
a time when the influence of the Presbyterian clergy
was not great. 1

Whatever may have been its extent, the inter-
ference of the clergy in the administration of the law
was not of long duration. But it is often alleged that
they retain to this day a pernicious sway over the
minds of the people. This, we are persuaded, is an
erroneous view. The lowland Scotch, at least, are not
priest-ridden ; they accept, doubtless, many priestly
dogmas, but they do so because persuaded of their
truth. Those only who unthinkingly believe what-
ever a priest tells them, or do whatever a priest bids
them, are in truth priest-ridden. For example, at a
general election, we read that a clergyman in South
Shropshire, " finding that numbers of his parishioners
had promised to vote for Mr. More, went about tell-
ing them that they were about to vote for the Pope,
for the Queen to be beheaded, and Protestant clergy-
men to be burned for their faith." Now, if it be true
that any reverend canvasser by such means induced
his parishioners to break their promises, we may,
without much want of charity, regard those parish-
ioners as "priest-ridden." But men open to such
influences would be hard to find in any parish in
Scotland. The Scottish peasant has many extrava-
gances of creed which he often carries into severity of
action ; but he has thought them out for himself ;
and we believe that in many parts of Scotland at the

1 Arnot's " Criminal Trials," p. 306.
VOL. T. F



82 BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

present day there is more control exercised over than
by clergymen.

And here it is that we trace the bad effects of the
struggles of the seventeenth century not in the
present power of the clergy, but in the austere beliefs
to which the people yet cling ; partly because con-
genial to the national intellect and temper, but far
more because they have come down hallowed by the
authority of the stern teachers of the old time. Hence
the real state of ecclesiastical matters in Scotland is
this, that while the bulk of the population adhere to
those beliefs, and to the unattractive forms of worship
which are associated with them, the educated class is
becoming more impatient of them every day. The
clergy, as a body, must go with the majority ; and the
result is, that in few countries do cultivated and
liberal men stand so entirely aloof from clerical in-
fluence as in Scotland at the present time. These
men are not irreligious. On the contrary, they have,
we suspect, a more intelligent interest in theological
questions than the same class in England certainly
far more than was entertained by their own fore-
fathers ; but they find nothing in the clerical teaching
around them which they can respect or believe. 1
There are some men in the Scotch Churches who are
capable of supplying this w^ant ; but their number is
too few to permit hope of a speedy change.

On the other hand, the Presbyterian Church has
been powerful for much good. In the first place, it
should never be forgotten that to the revolt of 1640
not only Scotland, but England likewise, owes her
freedom. The subsequent influence of the Presby-
terian polity has been, on the whole, in accordance
with that beginning. The presence of the laity as a

1 See a valuable essay on " Church Tendencies in Scotland," by Dr.
Wallace, of Edinburgh, in "Recess Studies," 1870.



BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND. 83

ruling power in the Church has been a check, more
or less stringent, on clerical pretensions. The right
of representation conceded to all ; the gradation of
church courts presbyteries, synods, assemblies
exercising their jurisdiction according to prescribed
rules, and in which freedom of discussion is unre-
strained, could not fail to foster principles favourable
to liberty, or at least hostile to the despotic exercise
of authority. Moreover, the long resistance to power
left a feeling of independence very active within the
Church. This became conspicuously manifest after
the enforcement of patronage by the Tory ministers of
Anne ; and since then it has broken out from time
to time in those great movements of Dissent which
form so marked a peculiarity in Scottish ecclesiastical
history. The Dissenting bodies in Scotland hold a very
different position from their brethren in England.
Few Scottish churchmen would go with the clergy of
the diocese of Oxford in classing together Dissenters
and beershops as the great evils they have to strive
against. " When a country squire hears of an ape, his
first feeling is to give it nuts and apples ; when he hears
of a Dissenter, his immediate impulse is to commit it
to the county jail, to shave its head, to alter its
customary food, and to have it privately whipped.
This is no caricature, but an accurate picture of na-
tional feelings." This was true when Peter Plymley
wrote it sixty years ago ; and something of the
feeling lingers in England still. But in Scotland the
Dissenter cannot be so regarded. He is too powerful.
If not liked, he is at least respected, even by the
lairds ; and the Dissenting clergy are, as a rule,
Liberals. Hence, if we include all denominations, we
find that in Scotland clerical influence is, in secular
politics, on the Liberal side.

Moreover, much of the evil we have indicated is in



84 BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

fairness chargeable, not against Scottish Presby-
terianism, but against those who persecuted it. At
the union of the crowns it would have been easy to
have given Scotland a system of church government
which would have reconciled all classes, and rendered
possible the harmonious development of the religious
life of the country ; and even after the Eestoration
such a task would not have been beyond the reach of
any statesmanlike capacity. An opposite course was
taken in the very wantonness of tyranny, and those
who took it are mainly responsible for the varied and
long-enduring mischiefs which were inseparable from
such a policy.

The general condition of the country from 1567 to
1688, the period embraced by these volumes, was
deplorable. A discerning eye might even then have
seen, in the growth of the middle class, good promise
for the future ; but there was little of present happi-
ness or prosperity. The ten years of the usurpation
formed a brief exception ; Cromwell's government of
Scotland conclusively refutes Mr. Hallam's charge
that he " never showed any signs of a legislative mind
or any desire to place his renown on that noblest basis
the amelioration of social institutions." It is impos-
sible to exaggerate the benefits bestowed on Scotland
by his legislation. He bridled the Highlands, he
silenced the Church, he reformed the constitution.
He gave her purity of justice ; allowed perfect free-
trade with England ; opened to her enterprise the
expanding field of English commerce ; ] abolished
private rights of jurisdiction ; swept away the whole
complex machinery of feudalism. He anticipated not
only the Union of 1707, and the reforms of 1748, but

1 How rapidly Scotland thrived during this short period may be
gathered from the sum subscribed to the Darien Expedition by Glasgow
alone 56,000. Such a sum would have been thought fabulous before
Cromwell.



BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND. 85

even the commercial and legal legislation of our own
day. How far the great Protector was in advance of
his age is strikingly illustrated by the fact that, in a
Parliament elected in 1868, all the learning and
power of the present Lord Advocate can hardly suc-
ceed, against professional interests and professional
prejudice, in setting the law of Scotland as free from
the trammels of a worn-out system as Cromwell left
it. With the restoration of her " native princes "
came back all Scotland's miseries. The Navigation
Acts of 1660 denied her any share in the trade of
England ; and thus, during the unprecedented ad-
vance of that country from the Eestoration to the
Revolution, Scotland was every day becoming poorer.
When Mr. Burton's history ends we are at the nadir
of the national happiness and prosperity. The Re-
volution, of course, put a stop to persecution. But
William could do little or nothing to advance her
material well-being. There was, and could be, no
real improvement in this respect till after the Union
of 1707.

These concluding volumes of Mr. Burton's work
are in every way superior to the former ones. The
themes with which he has had here to deal are, for
the most part, better suited to his powers, and possess
a more practical interest than the purposeless, if
romantic, turbulence of the early period. Accord-
ingly, he has entered into them with zeal, and treated
them with fulness and originality. Also, when occa-
sion offers, he shows command of a richer descriptive
power, and greater felicity in narrative. In his style,
too, there is a marked improvement. The force and
vigour remain ; the harshness and inelegancies have,
in great measure, disappeared. Blemishes, however,
may yet be traced : of phraseology, as in the use of
such a word as the word " genteel ; " of quaintness



86 BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

amounting to absurdity ; as when a reckless policy is
compared to "the violent frolics of the young men
who in the present day wrench off knockers and upset
policemen ;"* of confused and even ungrammatical
expression, as in the following sentence : "The uncon-
spicuous and silent growth of the powers destined to
come into contest in great convulsions are the most
important, yet the least obtainable, portion of the
history of any notable epoch in the history of a
large community and the community involved in the
Scottish movements of the day was a large one, for it
was the whole of the British Empire." 2 Here too, as
before, the pleasure of the reader is marred by the
want of method. In the treatment of the various
subjects due regard is not paid to truth of historic
proportion ; and one topic succeeds another with an
abruptness which is provoking and confusing the
reader, absorbed in some vital aspect of the great
ecclesiastical strife, on turning the page, finds himself
without warning plunged into the details of a miser-
able Highland feud. It is with great regret that we
find Mr. Burton still open to the charge of inaccuracy.
It has a curious pagan effect to see the thanksgiving
of the Huguenot prayer-books styled the " Action des
graces;" and, if that may be looked on as a slip of the
pen, no such excuse will avail for the following care-
lessness. Speaking of Sharp, Mr. Burton says :

"We are told how, presiding at a witch-trial, he was
confounded and showed symptoms of terror when the victim
asked him who was with him in his closet on Saturday
night last betwixt twelve and one o'clock. He 3 confessed to
Eothes, who was inquisitive on the matter, that it was ' the
muckle black devil.' "

This of course implies, either that Sharp shared the

1 Retained in 2d ed., vol. v. p. 281.

2 Vol. vi. p. 472, c. 70.



Online LibraryHenry H LancasterEssays and reviews → online text (page 7 of 38)