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Annals and correspondence of the viscount and the first and second earls of Stair; (Volume 1) online

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bates with an ability equal to the occasion.

His position was not a bed of roses. Exclusive
altogether of the avowed adherents of the late royal

* Act. Parl. Scot., ix. The date of the royal letter is May 17, 1689.
Lord Macaulay is not quite accurate in stating that the Convention,
after appointing the three commissioners to carry the instrument of
government and the tender of the crown to London, then adjourned
for a few weeks. The adjournment did not take place till the receipt
by the Estates of the king's letter as to his having accepted the crown
and taken the oath, &c.

136 THE STAIR ANNALS. [1689.

family, a numerous party existed among the favour-
ers of the Revolution Settlement, to whom the pro-
motion of Sir John Dalrymple and the return of his
father to the chair of President of the Session were
as gall and wormwood. These were chiefly adher-
ents of the old Covenanters and Cameronians, who
recalled, without any great stretch of memory, a time
when the rule of Lauderdale in Scotland was counte-
nanced by the lord president Stair, and when the
Popish views of James in dispensing with the penal
statutes were furthered by the opportune compliance
of the king's advocate, Sir John Dalrymple.

The promotion of the latter in King William's
Government cannot perhaps be matter of surprise,
considering his powerful family connection, his ac-
knowledged superiority and skill in debate, and the
circumstance (which must have weighed in London)
of his having been selected by the Convention to
be one of the three commissioners for conveying to
William and Mary the offer of the crown. But not
the less virulent was the opposition he encountered
in Parliament when he came to lead for the Govern-
ment, and was called upon to oppose the proceedings
and votes of what very soon proved to be a majority
of the House.

The first session of the Convention Parliament,
which met on the 5th of June 1689, presented the re-
markable phenomenon of a government just brought
into power by an apparent majority of the people
of Scotland being, nevertheless, almost always in a
parliamentary minority. The king and the Secretary
Melvill were in constant communication with the
royal commissioner (Duke of Hamilton) and the lord


Advocate ; and four Acts (besides two formal ones)
were all the commissioner was empowered to touch
with the sceptre (the Scottish mode of giving the
royal assent) before the prorogation of the House.*
No act of supply was passed, and the settlement of
the Church government was postponed.

The opposition was concentrated not so much in
the few Jacobites still to be found in Parliament as
in a formidable knot of members called " the Club/'
at the head of which were the factious and dangerous
Sir James Montgomery and the Earl of Ross, both
uncompromising enemies of Sir John Dalrymple and
his father. They were supported in most of their
votes by Sir Patrick Hume and other Presbyterians.t

Five votes on important questions were carried
by the Opposition against all the efforts of Dal-
rymple and the Government : ist, a vote declaring
that it was the privilege of Parliament to nominate
the Committee of Articles for preparing motions
and overtures to be brought before it, excluding
therefrom the officers of state, unless they were
chosen ; J 2d, a vote abrogating the statute of Charles

* These Acts respectively declared the meeting of Estates a Par-
liament, recognised the royal authority of William and Mary and
prescribed the Oath of Allegiance, abolished Prelacy, and rescinded the
'. forfeiture of the late Earl of Argyle. The only supply hitherto voted
for the service of the new Government was a sum of 280,000 pounds
Scots by the Convention of Estates.

t " The Club meets at a tavern " (the Advocate writes to Lord Mel-
vill) ' twice a-day, and orders all the north-country members ; and all
the * malignants,' for fear, are come into the Club, and they vote all
alike." June 25, 1689; Melvill Papers.

t Without agreeing to everything proposed by this vote as to the
Articles, the Government afterwards conceded a less close and more
satisfactory constitution of the Committee of Articles, according to
which the officers of state were to be present in the committee, but

138 THE STAIR ANNALS. [1689.

II., 1669, which asserted the king's supremacy over
all persons and in all causes ecclesiastical ; 3d, a
vote as to persons not to be. employed in public
trusts, levelled principally against the Advocate, as
having been an instrument of the former Govern-
ment in matters declared to be " grievances ; " 4th,
a vote concerning the power to be exercised by
Parliament in the matter of judicial appointments,
mainly directed against Sir James Dalrymple, now
about to resume his office of president of the Ses-
sion ; 5th, a vote ordaining the Presbyterian min-
isters still alive who had been thrust from their
churches to be restored.

With reference to these votes, and the state of
matters in Parliament, Sir John Dalrymple wrote to
Lord M-elvill, " By the enclosed, your lordship will
easily observe whether we be more inclined to settle
the Church or pull down the State. . . . Each
day we are kept together it will be at the expense
to the king of a new prerogative."

Towards the close of the session an Address to the
king, recapitulating these votes, and giving a very

not to vote. This improved organisation was provided for in the
ensuing session, by the Act 1690, c. 3. See, on this subject, Sir John
Dalrymple to Lord Melvill, July 2, 1689 Melvill Papers.

* July 20, 1689 Melvill Papers. "Now began" (says Forbes of
Culloden, in a paper "On the State of things in Scotland after the
Revolution''; "every man to see that the Estates of Scotland were wise
behind the hand, and that they had not made their bed as they wished
to lie down. Instead of remedy, the first expressions were but mere
animosities against Sir John Dalrymple and his father, with some
resentment against the Lord Melvill ; but upon soberer thoughts it was
projected to divide Lord Melvill, who was an honest, well-principled,
suffering man, from the interests of my Lord Stair, who had been in
an evil government so long, and had left his son behind him in it until
the last." Forbes was a member of the Presbyterian opposition in


broad hint as to the reason of the delay of the supply
asked for by the royal commissioner, was signed by
the members of the Opposition, now a majority of
the House. The address besought the king to take
such courses as he should think fit for passing the
foresaid resolutions into Acts and redressing all other

The royal consent being refused in the mean
time to all the five votes, the Crown and the Par-
liament were thus fairly in collision ; but William
was in no mood to change his minister, though his
own popularity and hold of the Presbyterian interest
were temporarily affected by the determined set which
was made against Sir John Dalrymple. He pre-
ferred adjourning the Parliament.

Before the adjournment, the partisan warfare
against the Advocate came to a crisis of which the
consequences might have been serious, had he not
extricated himself with his usual ability. A question
was raised by Sir James Montgomery and the Club,
whether the commissioners sent by the Convention
to make offer of the crown had exactly obeyed their
instructions. " This clay " (Sir John Dalrymple
writes to Lord Melvill)"" "we met, full of humour.
I was designed to be sent to the castle wagers five
to one upon it. I was desired to withdraw, but,
being innocent, I did rely upon God's providence.
. . . The matter being charged warmly by
Annandale, that I had proposed that the king should
take the coronation oath before the "grievances" were
read, and that I meant not to include the grievances
in his oath, but to leave the nation in mercy that he

* July 12, 1689 Jylelvill Papers.

140 THE STAIR ANNALS. [1689.

might redress these or not as he pleased ; this was
found a crime, because the Instructions did place the
oath after the grievances. I did produce the Act of
the Convention sending us three up for each Estate,
bearing expressly to offer the instrument, the oath,
and the grievances in the last place. This did so
turn the tide, that now my colleagues would give
anything for their exoneration."*

The Parliament was prorogued by the royal com-
missioner on the 5th of August, the settlement of
Presbytery being allowed to stand over till next
year. The chronic ferment which characterised its
proceedings may be accounted for not only by the
factious discontent of the Presbyterians but also by
the stirring events of the war in the Highlands, the
battle of Killiecrankie and the death of Dundee,
which took place about a fortnight before the pro-
rogation. What with Jacobites, Cameronians, and
disapppointed politicians, there were within the Par-
liament itself sufficient elements of faction to give rise
to a very large amount of political excitement.

The party of the Club kept alive their agitation
of the public mind by formally presenting, on the I5th
of October (by the hands of Sir Patrick Hume), to
the king, at Hampton Court, the Address already
mentioned. It was but coldly received. t

In connection with these proceedings, the pamph-
let (referred to in the Life of Viscount Stair) vindi-
cating the votes of the Parliament came out before

* Compare, as to this, the Act of Nomination and the Instructions
to the Commissioners, stat. 1689, c. 28 & 30. The dispute appears
frivolous, but not less so than parliamentary disputes in modern times
have sometimes been, where party feeling was the chief motive.

t Culloden Papers, p. 325.


the close of the year. It was made the vehicle of
much personal abuse of Sir John Dalrymple and
his father, too racy to be introduced in the address ;
while the government of William was reviled and
threatened in very plain language.* The Advocate
left the pamphlet to be answered by Lord Stair, and
no further notice was taken of it than to prevent a
proposed reprint in Edinburgh.

That Sir John Dalrymple, though an able par-
liamentary leader and adviser of the Crown, was
unpopular with the party on whom the Government
had at this time chiefly to depend, is undoubtedly
true ; and his employment at all by King William
involves a political question into which it is un-
necessary to enter. His case, however, was one of
very peculiar circumstances ; and it is doubtful if any
other arrangement could have been made with safety
to the rights and prerogatives of the Crown as recog-
nised and understood by the English Parliament and
by the king himself. There were startling inconsist-
encies in his career, but his family was powerful and
his ability conspicuous. He was now proving him-
self a faithful minister in the service of the king, to
whose interest he was bound by every possible tie ;
and no suspicion of intrigue or duplicity with reference
to his royal master can ever attach to his memory.t

* " The cobbler's awls and ends " (says this Junius of the seventeenth
century) "are unsuitable furniture in the painter's shop; neither will
they ever serve this king with faithfulness in his vindicating the king-
doms into liberty who were the sworn vassals to his predecessors'
despotical will, and their tools for oppressing and enslaving the
nations." Votes and Proceedings of the Parliament Vindicated, p. 21.

t In a document discovered in the course of the inquiries as to
the Jacobite plot of 1690, Sir John Dalrymple appears as one of six
persons excluded from the general indemnity proposed to be granted

142 THE STAIR ANNALS. [1690.

In the course of the winter information reached
the Government of a Jacobite plot or conspiracy to
bring back the late king. Their attempts to oust
the Dalrymples and bring about a change of minis-
ters in Scotland having failed, certain discontented
chiefs of the Club proceeded, with mischievous in-
tent, to take up the cause of James. After issuing
the pamphlet already mentioned, they began hatch-
ing a plot against the Government. Sir James
Montgomery, the Earls of Ross and Annandale,
Ferguson " the Plotter," and an Englishman called
Neville Payne, were principally implicated.* The
plot was not allowed to ripen into execution ; and in
the spring and summer of 1690 its details, such as
they were, came to light by the plotters betraying
each other. Its professsed aim being a counter-
revolution, the inquiry was transferred to London,
where it caused the Cabinet and the queen, while
William was engaged in Ireland, no slight uneasi-
ness.t Through the influence of Melvill the Scot-
tish conspirators were very leniently dealt with ; but
Neville Payne, who had crossed the Border in order
to avoid a prosecution for treason in England, was
arrested in Scotland, and, by express instructions
from the king and Melvill, subjected to torture

by James, the others being Lords Melvill and Leven, General Mackay,
General Douglas, and Bishop Burnet.

* The well-known case of Lord Preston and Mr Ashton (January
1690, State Trials) may be taken as proof of the existence of another
plot in England, in the month of December 1689, to restore the
Stuarts ; but there appears no evidence connecting it with the Scottish

t Narratives (by the Queen) as to Lords Ross and Annandale,
July 1690, and Earl of Annandale's Confession Melvill Papers; Bal-
carres's Memoirs of the Revolution ; Burton's Scotland.


before the Privy Council. He made no additional
revelations ; and his treatment and behaviour had
the salutary effect of disgusting most of the members
of the Council with the use of the thumbikins and

The proceedings for tracing out this plot were
taken charge of by the Solicitor-General Lockhart,
the Lord Advocate meanwhile making diligent pre-
paration for the ensuing session of Parliament.
" When the [Court of ] Session sits down " (he wrote
to Lord Melvill),t " and people return after they are
spoken with particularly, your lordship shall know
what I expect from every member of the Parlia-
ment." The Highland clans being still intractable,
he recommends the placing of a garrison of troops
at Inverlochy ; "In winter the Highlanders cannot
stay together, their garb rendering them incapable
of remaining in the fields in frost and snow, nor can
they scamper to the hills. The Lowlanders, being
clothed, can endure more cold in winter ; whereas
in summer the Highlanders can march and fatigue
more in one day than the Lowlanders can do in

* Earl of Crawford to Lord Melvill, December n, 1690 Melvill
t January 10, 1690.

144 THE STAIR ANNALS. [1690.


Intention of the king to open the Scottish Parliament in person State
of parties Management of the Parliament Establishment of
Presbytery Part taken in it by Sir John Dalrymple First Gene-
ral Assembly of the Kirk after the Revolution.

IN the spring of 1690 it was the king's intention to
preside in person over the deliberations of the Scot-
tish Parliament the Lord Advocate anticipating no
difficulty in securing a majority for Government on
the supposition of William visiting Scotland. " I
know" (he writes to Lord Melvill)* "that pains have
been taken to engage the Cameronites [Cameronians]
and to stir up the country ; but it will not do. . . .
Indeed it is inconceivable how bold and restless they
[the opposition] are, and what ill views they give of
all the king's actings, which retards and intimidates
many of us ; but still I am satisfied the great num-
ber of persons employed in the Government keeps
friends ; t and if the north-country commissioners do
hold out as well this next session for the king as they
did last, I do not fear : but there is great pains taken
to persuade the Cavalier party that they cannot be

* Feb. 4, 1690 Melvill Papers.

t As many offices as possible were put in commission, and so the
Government patronage was extended and aspirants to office gratified.


safe nor entertained by King William, and I find that
Athole and all his people are directly in the Club; so
in a short time they will be open Jacobites. I under-
stand the queen is not to come down, so it is not
possible the king can be crowned with formality or
solemnity; and, in my opinion, there is nothing of that
kind more requisite than that he do put on the crown
the first day he appears in Parliament and makes his
speech. At other times he will wear his ordinary habit ;
but it is our custom, and very necessary, that he be
always present on the throne at all the diets of Par-
liament." The Advocate then recommends that, as
there is no time to provide robes or clothes, the king
should signify his wish to have the Scottish Sump-
tuary law observed ; * concluding with the remark
that the spring season was the very worst of all
for meat or the appearance of the country ; but if
things went well, he should digest the point of credit
the easier.

Sir John Dalrymple's patriotic doubts whether his
countrymen would make a good show upon occasion
of the visit of the king to Scotland, accompanied by a
retinue of English lords, were not destined to be put
to the proof, important affairs preventing William
from prosecuting his design. " Special instructions,"
prepared no doubt in concert with the parliamentary
manager for the Government, were issued for the
guidance of Lord Melvill, the new Commissioner to
the Parliament. His lordship was to inform himself
how the members stood affected ; with advice of the
Privy Council to take measures for securing the Gov-

* This was the statute of Charles II., 1672, " Concerning Apparel,"
which provided against extravagance in dress.


146 THE STAIR ANNALS. [1690.

crnment, and, if necessary, to make use of the war-
rants directed by the king to the commander of the
forces in Scotland ; to deal with the leading men to
concur for redress of grievances, and with all other
persons whom he thought might be serviceable, and
what employments, money, or other gratifications
he should promise would be made good : the Pres-
byterians were to be assured of the king's kindness
for them, and his expectation that they were to in-
fluence his subjects of their persuasion to fidelity and
reliance on his goodwill.

These Instructions, which are given at length in
the Melvill Papers, do not impress us with so exalted
an opinion of the monarch and ministers who were
ushering in a new order of things as some ardent
admirers of the Revolution Settlement would desire ;
but a practical solution of existing difficulties was ab-
solutely necessary, and for that purpose they were
probably not ill adapted.

With the prospect of a change of Church govern-
ment in Scotland, the king, whose affection for Pres-
bytery was more politic than heartfelt, saw clearly
that the utmost circumspection and caution were
necessary in his relations with the two Parliaments.
He therefore postponed the meeting of the Scottish
parliament till later in the year.*

William set out for Ireland in the beginning of
June, leaving the queen in London. Embarking on
board the fleet from the coast of Cheshire, after a short
sojourn in the quiet bay of Loch Ryan, he crossed
the channel to Carrickfergus, and, in the course of
a few weeks, fought the battle of the Boyne.

* The king to Lord Melvill, March 20, 1690 Melvill Papers.


When the Scottish parliament met, a change ap-
peared to have come over its spirit. * To whatever
cause we are to attribute the change whether to dis-
sensions and a feeling of insecurity among the plot-
ters of the Club, or to the action taken by Melvill
under the royal Instructions the lord Advocate and
the Government experienced much less opposition
than in the previous year, and no serious collision
took place between the votes of the Parliament and
the Crown. The opening speech of the royal com-
missioner and the king's letter were both conciliatory.
Lord Melvill stated that the parliament would have
been honoured with the presence of the king had not
the meeting of the English parliament and the state
of public affairs prevented it. He counselled mode-
ration and the laying aside animosities and piques,
and said that his Majesty now offered redress to the
oppressed, pardon and peace to submitting enemies,
and protection to all good subjects. t A variety of
important Acts were passed, chiefly in relation to the
Church.^ At the very commencement of the session

* Sir John Dalrymple having now a seat in Parliament in right of
his office of Lord Advocate, his burgh of Stranraer was represented by
Sir Patrick Murray.

t Collection of pamphlets, Advocate's Library.

J The Jacobite Lord Balcarres refers to this session of Parliament in
the following terms : " Never men made a more miserable figure in
any assembly than your [King James's] friends did in this, after they
saw themselves abandoned and outvoted in everything, and had no-
thing to do but sit and hear Duke Hamilton bawl and bluster after his
usual manner, and Sir James Montgomery and Sir John Dalrymple
scold like watermen. These two were the chief -managers of each
party Sir John pretending to defend the king's prerogative, and Sir
James the liberty of the subject and the claim of right, which he did
with great force and eloquence, although a country gentleman, not
used to great affairs ; and if he had not been opposed by the great
abilities of Sir John Dalrymple, and but ill sustained from the indiffer-

148 THE STAIR ANNALS. [1690.

three of the five votes or bills passed by Parliament
in the previous session, but not assented to by the
Royal Commissioner, were touched with the sceptre,
now in the hand of Melvill viz., the bills for ex-
cluding the royal supremacy over all persons and
in all causes ecclesiastical, for restoring the outed
Presbyterian ministers, and for reorganising on an
impartial basis the Committee of Articles.

The great measure of the year was the statute
establishing Presbyterian Church government by
Presbyteries, Synods, and General Assemblies. At
the instance of the Earl of Crawford, a clause
appointing the first meeting of the General Assembly
of the Church to be held at Edinburgh in October
(1690) was inserted in the Act*

The settlement took place mainly upon the foot-
ing of the statute establishing Presbytery in 1592,
passing over in a great measure the more recent
settlement of 1649 an d previous years. This settle-
ment on the basis of 1592 was supported with great
power of reasoning and eloquence by the lord
Advocate, against the insidious attempts of Sir
James Montgomery and others to throw it out as
not expressly recognising the Covenants and the
standards of 1649. It must have astonished those

ence of your friends, he had undoubtedly put them to great straits."
Letter to James VII.; Memoirs, p. 59.

* The clause bears that, " in pursuance of the premises, their Majes-
ties do hereby appoint the first meeting of the General Assembly," &c.
When the draft of this statute (1690, c. 5), as agreed to by the Parlia-
ment, was submitted to the king, he was dissatisfied with the reference
to Prelacy in the preamble, and the assumed claim of Presbytery to be
the only true Church of Christ within the kingdom of Scotland, and he
sent to Lord Melvill a paper of "Remarques" on these points, which
is given in the Melvill Papers, p. 436.


who were aware of the part taken by Sir James in
the Jacobite plot so recently discovered, to hear
him unctuously discoursing in parliament upon the
National Covenants ; being himself allowed, by the
indulgence of Lord Melvill and the Scottish adminis-
tration to go scot-free, while poor Neville Payne was
committed to prison, and before the close of the year
tortured with the thumbikins and boot, in respect of
his concern in the very same plot.

Sir John Dalrymple had in the previous year ex-
pressed himself strongly in favour of the establish-
ment of Presbytery proceeding upon the statute of
1592, as being what a majority of the parliament
could agree to;* but the standards of 1649 were by
no means ignored altogether in the new Act. It
adopted the Westminster Confession of Faith in-
stead of Knox's Confession ; and although it autho-
rised no directory for public worship, it sanctioned
by implication the general directions contained in

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Online LibraryJohn Murray GrahamAnnals and correspondence of the viscount and the first and second earls of Stair; (Volume 1) → online text (page 11 of 28)