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Advocate and Lord Justice- Clerk. But William
could not afford to look closely into such matters. He
knew Stair was able ; he had reason to believe him
willing to serve the good cause. He, therefore,
honoured him with much confidence, and took him
over to England in the " Brill."

Here Stair's work as a statesman begins. He is
said, indeed, to have shared the counsels of Monk
before the march into England which restored the
monarchy. But, with this exception, he had hitherto
lived the life of a mere lawyer, avoiding, even to the
disregard of duty, any part in state affairs. To such
a course he had been led partly by timidity, partly
because he disliked the governments he continued to
serve. Both causes were now removed. His political
views were in accord with the new order of things ;
there was no longer room for timidity : the only hope
of safety to him or his lay in the stability of William's
throne. Even now, however, the part which he took
was not a public one. He lived in a beautiful villa
on the banks of the Thames belonging to the widow
of his old patron Lauderdale, and guided the delibera-
tions of William on Scotch affairs by his experience
and sagacity. He was, in the crisis of the Ee volution,
the confidential adviser Carstairs afterwards became.
And, in truth, the sagacity which directed William
in these things must have been sagacity of no com-
mon order. If, as there is every reason to believe,
Stair suggested the mode in which the Convention
which was to meet at Edinburgh should be summoned
in righteous disregard of existing laws ; if, by his
advice, nobles who had been deprived of their honours


by the tyranny of the Stuarts were invited to re-
sume their seats in Parliament ; if, by his advice, the
franchise was so extended that none but Papists were
excluded from the vote ; if he had any share in
William's letter to the Convention, when it did
assemble, and in the private instructions sent to the
friends of the Government, in which we see not only
a statesmanlike view of the position, but an intimate
and accurate knowledge of Scotch parties and of the
Scotch character ; then few advisers have ever given
wiser counsel to a prince. Ecclesiastical matters pre-
sented, perhaps, the most serious and the most lasting
difficulty. William was undoubtedly desirous that the
Scotch should be induced to accept a moderate form
of Episcopacy. The establishment of Presbytery in
Scotland made every Scotch Episcopalian a Jacobite,
and was, moreover, in the highest degree distasteful
to English churchmen, high and low alike. Nor is it
uncharitable to suppose that a prince as greedy of
power as any who have ever governed England may
have had some preference for a form of Church
government which, to say the least, has always been
associated with the ascendency of the Crown. Stair,
knowing Scotland, knew the maintenance of Episco-
pacy to be impracticable. Aided probably by Car-
stairs, he had little difficulty in bringing William to
this opinion. But a further and most important object
was that William should be saved from the unpopu-
larity sure to be incurred by him in England were he
to countenance the overthrow of Episcopacy in the
North. The matter must be decided before he could
have any say in it, or any title to interfere. Stair
effected this by prevailing upon the managers of the
Convention to insert a clause in the Claim of Eight
declaring Episcopacy an insupportable institution,
odious to the nation, and which must be abolished.


William, therefore, if he accepted the Crown of Scot-
land at all, had no choice but to accept it on a contract
of which this was the first condition.

It seems to have been undetermined whether Stair
should be restored to his place as President, then held
by Sir George Lockhart. In his "Apology" he says
he would not have taken the place while Sir George
lived ; adding, frankly enough, " nor had I any doubt
but that the King would have provided me as well as
by it." The murder of Lockhart in March 1689 re-
moved all difficulty ; and Stair thus writes, with a
certain half- sincerity, as to his own feelings at the
time : " That shameful murder of Sir George Lockhart
touched the King much, and made him say to me he
saw it was necessary that I should resume my place
again, which I was willing, though it was my right,
he should continue to enjoy, being younger and abler
to endure the toil than I."

Accordingly he was re-appointed President of the
Court of Session, and held that office till his death in
1695. These years were certainly the most useful,
and probably the happiest, of his life. He enjoyed
the position which he preferred to any other; he
could, without scruple, take what part became him in
public affairs. And the part from which he as a judge
was debarred, he saw taken, with rare ability and
energy, by his son. The attacks of numerous and
bitter enemies had no effect on his fortunes, and were
not, therefore, likely to disturb his cold and equable
temper. Yet these attacks, both on the President and
his son, were unexampled in persistency and malig-
nancy. Politicians of every rank and every party
were never weary of denouncing the Dalrymples as
the cause of everything that was amiss in Scotland.
Acts of Parliament were passed for the express pur-
pose of driving them from office. But all was of no


avail. William refused his assent to the Acts, and
showed the value he put upon the denunciations by
raising the President to the peerage. One pamphlet,
however, probably the joint work of the plotter Fer-
guson and the traitor Montgomery, could not, it was
thought, even in the interest of Government, be left
unnoticed. Accordingly Stair published a short reply,
entitled " An Apology for Sir James Dalrymple,
President of the Court of Session, by himself." The
document may be read with interest, but does not
materially affect our estimate of Stair. Some
charges, mainly connected with legal matters, to
which weight was no doubt attached at the time,
but which are now utterly unimportant, he success-
fully refutes. To the graver charges of having sup-
ported the tyranny of Lauderdale, and of having
been in public life " a Proteus and a changeling,"
no defence was possible ; and the endeavour to main-
tain one discovers more ingenuity than candour or

The career of Sir John Dalrymple, the President's
eldest son, shorter than that of his father, is marked
by bolder features, and presents a more varied in-
terest. Born in 1648, he was called to the Scotch
bar soon after his father became Lord President in
1670. The first ten years after his call afforded little
to vary the monotony of professional life ; but in 1682
there came a change. In the autumn of that year the
father fled to Holland ; ere the close of it the son was
denounced by Claverhouse before the Privy Council.
He was accused of " leasing-making, sedition, per-
jury ;" of having laughed at a proclamation ; and of
having offered Claverhouse a bribe of 150, " to con-
nive at the irregularities of his mother the Lady
Stair/' 1 Dalrymple retorted with charges against

1 Irregularities, of course, iu matters ecclesiastical.


Claverhouse of oppression in Galloway, and of inter-
ference with the rights of heritable jurisdiction belong-
ing to the Stair family. Fountainhall tells us there
was " much transport, flame, and humour in this
cause ; and the cloud on the late President's family
was taken advantage of now, which shows the world's
instability/' 1 The issue, of course, was never doubt-
ful. Sir John (he had been knighted early in life)
was committed to the Castle of Edinburgh "during
pleasure," and fined 500. He was soon afterwards
liberated on payment of the fine, and acknowledgment
of his errors.

But the Council was bent on his ruin. Perhaps they
discerned that the astute Dalrymples had devised, and
were following out, a dexterous policy for preserving
family estates in troublous times. The father took
one side of politics, the eldest son the other ; so that,
in any event, forfeiture was avoided. This policy,
less in the spirit of chivalry than in the spirit of old
Miln wood's dying injunction to "keep the gear to-
gether," was, not to mention politicians of lesser rank,
subsequently adopted by the noble houses of Hamilton,
Queensberry, and Athole. But the Dalrymples are
entitled to the credit of having invented it. So far
back as Lord Stair's journey to London in 1681, he is
said to have laid schemes for the succession of his son
to the dignities which he saw he himself would be
compelled to lay down which of course implied the
son's readiness to desert the politics of his father.
Fountainhall distinctly says that this feeling was at
the bottom of the proceedings now taken against Sir
John : " The High Treasurer was incensed that Sir
John would give them no discoveries against the Earl
of Aberdeen ; and that, by his father's retreat, he had
secured the estate from their gripe." 2 In September

1 " Decisions," vol. i. p. 201. 2 Ibid. p. 303.


1684 he was seized in his own house at midnight,
" without any shadow of ground,' 7 says Forbes, and
brought before the Council sitting at Holyrood. No
charge appears to have been preferred against him;
but notwithstanding, " they caused bring him between
a great guard of soldiers in open daylight, from the
Abbey, on foot to the prison, like a malefactor." 1
They kept him there three months; then liberated
him on bail for 500, confining him, however, to
Edinburgh, and eventually to a circuit of ten miles
round the city.

For three years this "cloud" hung over the House
of Stair. But a change was at hand. Sir George
Mackenzie, who had stuck at nothing else, could not
brook the relaxation of the penal laws against the
Catholics. In February 1687, Sir John Dalrymple
succeeded him as Lord Advocate, receiving 1200
from the king 500 being the fine exacted from him
some years before, and 700 for the charges of the
journey to London which had resulted in these happy
arrangements and a free pardon for all past offences
of his father, mother, and his whole family, including,
oddly enough, " a pardon to his little son, who had
accidentally shot his brother/ 72 Wodrow leaves "the
springs of this change to the civil historian of the
period ;" and the civil historian of the period has not
made much of the bequest. The following explana-
tion, offered by one of the Master's kinsmen, is
curious :

" To these (Perth and Melfort) was joined Sir John Dal-
rymple, son of Lord Stair. This last minister had seen his
father ruined by the king when Duke of York; and had
himself, on account of his lenity to Nonconformists, been
confined for many months in a common jail by the same
prince. Yet he was now appointed Lord Advocate and

1 Fountainhall, " Decisions," vol. i. p. 303. 2 Ibid. p. 447.


Justice -Clerk, offices at that time of great political power,
and a Privy Councillor. These preferences were bestowed
upon him by the advice of Sunderland, who suggested that
by his means an union between the Presbyterian and Popish
parties in Scotland might be effectuated. Capricious favours,
after capricious punishments, are insults. Sir John Dal-
rymple came into the king's service resolved to take venge-
ance if ever it should offer. Impenetrable in his designs,
but open, prompt, and daring in execution, he acted in per-
fect confidence with Sunderland, to whom he was inferior in
nothing and superior in eloquence." 1

In alluding to this matter, Mr. Story states, as a
thing beyond doubt, that the Master's purpose in tak-
ing office "embraced revenge for the past injuries
inflicted on himself and his family, and the overthrow
of the despotism under which his country was ground
down." We cannot feel constrained to adopt such a
view. That Sir John Dalrymple may have been
offered office at the instance of Sunderland is very
likely. His temperament was not that of a persecutor;
and for differences in religious persuasion he probably
cared as little as Sunderland himself. To carry out
the Government policy in relaxing the penal laws was
in no way disagreeable to him ; and Sunderland must
have known that in the accomplished Scotsman lie
had a supporter on whom he could rely. Sir John
could, with more propriety than most statesmen of
the time, profess the motive averred by President
Lockhart for the same line of conduct that he had
all his days fought against intolerance, and would not
now resist a policy of tolerance because of dark
designs suspected to be concealed under the offer of

1 "Dalrymple Memoirs," part i. book 4, p. 72. In a note by the
editor of the Oxford edition of "Burnet" (vol. iv. p. 42), it is stated that
Sir John used subsequently to boast that he had advised James to repeal
the Test Act in order to ruin him. No authority is given for the state-
mentin itself highly improbable.


such a blessing. Nothing, therefore, forces on us the
belief that he took office with the treacherous purpose
imputed to him. Evidence in support of the charge
there is none. All the probabilities are against its
truth. The mildness with which he discharged the
duties of his office may in fairness be ascribed to
good-nature rather than to slackness ; and was indeed
the wisest policy that could have been pursued in the
interests of James. He had no part in the counsels of
the Whigs who invited William over ; and we may
believe with certainty that the "perfect confidence"
between him and Sunderland did not include a know-
ledge of the Treasurer's intrigues, through his wife's
gallant, with the Hague.

Strangely enough, the author of the Dalrymple
Memoirs seems quite unconscious of the infamy which
his theory, if accepted, would attach to the memory
of his kinsman. A statesman who seeing a prince
he has long served bent on courses fraught with
ruin to himself and his adherents, and blind to the
plainest consequences, deaf to all advice stoops to
treason in order to secure his own fortune or his
neck, is bad enough. But to the baseness of seeking
office with the set purpose of playing the traitor's
part, and making destruction sure, and that from no
deeper motive than a desire of revenge for a three
months' imprisonment, few, even of the English or
Scotch politicians of that time, would have been
equal. Unscrupulous as Dalrymple was, nothing in
his character justifies us, without the clearest evidence,
in holding him capable of such pre-eminence in
treachery, surpassing even the treachery of Sunder-

In truth, Dalrymple's reasons are not hard to find.
They were not lofty, though they fell far short of the
iniquity ascribed to him. The Government desired


the services of the ablest man in Scotland. To gain
this end they were prepared to take any means, fair
or foul. Both were at their disposal. Dalrymple had,
indeed, committed no legal offence ; but he had done
worse he had endeavoured to uphold the law against
a prince determined to govern in defiance of all law.
For this he had suffered already : he might expect
suffering yet more severe. He was in the gripe of
Perth and Melfort ; and in them was no mercy. On
the other hand, honours, wealth, a pardon for all the
offences of his House, were within his reach. His
case was not singular. Government were at this
very time in quest of a lawyer equal to the duties of
Solicitor- General for England. Sir William Williams
was constrained to accept that office by the same
combination of influences which triumphed over the
integrity of Dalrymple.

The Eevolution came ; and Sir John Dalrymple,
although he had not stooped to be a traitor, had little
hesitation in being a turn-coat. He displayed all the
energy- of the class. He prepared and carried the
resolution which declared that James had " forfeited "
his throne ; he was one of the three commissioners
appointed by the Estates to offer the crown to
William and Mary ; and he was immediately there-
after restored to his former post of Lord Advocate.
It is not, therefore, matter for surprise that, in 1690,
he had the honour of being one of the six Scotchmen
exempted from the Act of Indemnity then proposed
to be granted by James. On the other hand, it is as
little matter for surprise that his appointment was
received by the Presbyterian leaders with even greater
indignation than the appointment of his father to the
office of President some months later. They resented
it not less bitterly than the English Whigs resented
the accession to office of Halifax and Dauby, and, at


a later date, of Sunderland, and much for the same
reasons. Sir Patrick Hume wrote to Melville stating
that "there was great disgust against Sir John
Dalrymple because he is brought in office." The dis-
gust was very natural. Men who had been outlawed
and proscribed ; who had groaned under the boot and
thumbscrew ; who had been driven to hide in caves
and vaults, and been half-starved in the garrets of
Amsterdam or Leyden, could hardly, with equanimity,
see the prosperity and advancement of men who had
suffered nothing for the good cause, nay, who had
held office during the " killing days," and had them-
selves taken part in those persecutions which cried
aloud for vengeance. There can, however, be no
doubt that William acted wisely. He took as minis-
ters those who could serve him best careless whether
they had been Malignants in Scotland or Tories in
England. His single aim was how the Government
might be steered most skilfully through the difficulties
which surrounded it; and, certainly, no man in
Scotland was so fit to take the helm as Sir John

He held office as Lord Advocate for about a year
and a half. He had to encounter no feeble opposi-
tion. The enmity of the Jacobites was a thing of
course ; the sullen discontent of extreme Covenanters
might have been expected. But there was added the
malignancy of disappointed place- seekers ; and the
persistent hostility of a small but influential body who
dignified their narrowness and national prejudices
with the name of patriotism. Balcarras made com :
mon cause with Montgomery ; Fletcher of Saltoun
degraded himself to the level of that perverse prater
Sir Patrick Hume. On the greater nobles the Govern-
ment could not rely. Alone of his name Argyll
stooped to treason ; Hamilton was a greedy time-


server ; Athole a cowardly knave. Nor was the
Secretary, Melville, a man who could give much aid.
But, supported by the King, and counselled no doubt
by his father, Sir John Dalrymple was more than a
match for all opponents. During one stormy session
the many-headed Opposition was triumphant. Firm-
ness, judicious concessions, and a little judicious
expenditure, gave the Government a majority in the
next. The unnatural alliance between Presbyterians
and Jacobites was dissolved ; " the Club " was broken
up ; the ecclesiastical polity of the realm was settled,
on the basis of 1592, in such a manner as to command
the acquiescence, if not the approval, of reasonable
men. Balcarras expressly attributes the victory of the
Government to "the great abilities of Sir John
Dalrymple." According to the same authority, these
abilities displayed themselves in vehemence, not less
than in dexterity of management. The oratorical
treat enjoyed in the Scottish Parliament during these
sessions he describes as hearing " Duke Hamilton
bawl and bluster after his usual manner, and Sir
James Montgomery and Sir John Dalrymple scold
like watermen." Sir John afterwards thought it
necessary to address a letter to the Commissioner
apologising for the heat he had shown in debate.

In 1691, Dalrymple became joint- secretary for
Scotland with Melville. Towards the close of the
year Melville resigned; and Johnston of Warriston
succeeded him. To one of these joint-secretaries was
intrusted the conduct of business in Edinburgh ; the
other was in attendance at Court, and had the chief
direction of affairs. The latter sphere of duty was
assigned to the Master of Stair, as Dalrymple must
now be called, his father having been raised to the
peerage. He held office till the summer of 1695.
During this time his attention was mainly occupied


with ecclesiastical affairs and the pacification of the

William, as is well known, was not yet satisfied with
the treatment the Episcopalians had received. His
first wish was to continue Episcopacy in Scotland ;
short of this, he desired to obtain for Episcopalians
the same toleration as was enjoyed by the Noncon-
formists in England, but that measure of justice the
Presbyterian clergy refused to grant. During 1691-2,
the King used all his influence to extort from the intol-
erant Church the concession that Episcopalians willing
to take the oath of allegiance, and to subscribe the
"Confession of Faith and the Shorter and Longer
Catechisms," should be admitted to communion. Many
Episcopalians were heartily desirous to come in on
those terms. But the Assembly of 1692 opposed a
dogged resistance ; and was in consequence dissolved,
not without reproaches, by the Royal Commissioner.
In this enlightened policy the King was cordially
supported by his latitudinarian Secretary. Mr.
Graham has published some interesting letters from
the Master to the Earl of Lothian the Commissioner
in which he expresses a very frank disapproval of
the Presbyterian leaders :

" I do agree with your Lordship those people are neither
tractable nor grateful, but yet they have something that one
would not do well to destroy them, though he can neither
manage nor oblige them. Something must be done to
hinder them to come themselves to confound the civil
government, but I shall never be accessary either to subvert
their constitution or to bring them to scaffolds, though
really they do some things so intolerable that they must be
used as mad bodies and put up in a Bedlam if they continue
their rabbling and protestations."

The English politicians of the time were not very
zealous or very faithful ; yet they struck the Master


as presenting a favourable contrast to his country-
men :

" They (the English Parliament) are full of overtures and
displeasure for the success of affairs this season, and the
allies lying by ; but after some time spent in stuff they will
come to give competent supplies, I hope, for really the bulk
of this nation are affectioned to the Government, and sen-
sible of the security they enjoy both of their religion and
property. 1 wish it were as well with us (in Scotland), who
talk more of religion and consider it less! 3

Matters came to a crisis in 1693. The Parliament
of that year passed two Acts one imposing on all
persons in positions of public trust, and among these,
on all the clergy, Presbyterian and Episcopal, an oath
acknowledging William as King dejure and de facto;
another requiring that all Episcopalian clergy who
should take this oath, subscribe the Confession, and
recognise the Presbyterian form of Church govern-
ment, should be entitled to be members of the Church
Courts. The Presbyterian clergy, in pretence at least,
objected to the Oath of Assurance, as it was called,
more vehemently than to the admission of their Epis-
copalian brethren. They loudly professed that to take
such an oath, especially at the dictation of Parliament,
was Erastianism, a bowing down to " Csesar," a recog-
nition of the supremacy of the civil power in matters
ecclesiastical. Yet it may well be doubted whether
even the small indulgence extended to Episcopalians
was not, in reality, the cause of their noisy opposition.
The King at first was firm ; members of the Assembly
of 1695 must take the oath, or the Assembly would
be dissolved. Headers of Scottish history are familiar
with the story how Carstairs returned suddenly to
Court learned the position of affairs detained the
despatches woke the King at midnight to seek his
pardon and obtain a reversal of his policy, and sue-


ceeded in both objects. The romantic touches in this
story are doubted by the best historians ; but that the
orders were recalled, and a serious collision between
the Church and the Crown averted, was no doubt in
great measure owing to the influence of Carstairs.

Online LibraryHenry H LancasterEssays and reviews → online text (page 9 of 38)