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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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During the course of these proceedings a printed
Paper, entitled " Information for the Master of Stair,"
temperately written, and making what points were

* The original of the Glenco Report was either suppressed or was
lost, and no perfectly authentic double of it is known to exist. A copy,
which has been regarded as sufficiently authenticated for historical
purposes, was first printed and published in the reign of Queen Anne
by B. Bragge, London, 1704. Bragge's pamphlet, which contained the
Report and some other proceedings, has been reprinted in the Miscel-
lanea Scotica, Edinburgh, 1818. The reprint in Carstairs State Papers
is probably from the same source,
t Act. Parl. Scot., ix. 397.


possible in his favour, was circulated among the
members of parliament. It stated, in the com-
mencement, that his friends conceived him to have
been " mightily prejudged by the Report of the Com-
mission, which notices particular sentences or periods
of certain letters of his, suppressing other material
periods of the same letters, and from whence con-
sequences are drawn which cannot follow upon a
due consideration of the whole." The Parliament,
in its present temper, was not disposed to submit
to any such arraignment of the Report and of its
own votes as was implied in this defensive plead-
ing ; and a resolution was accordingly moved and
carried, censuring the author (who proved to be
Mr Hew Dalrymple, younger brother of the Master
of Stair), and finding the Paper to be false and
calumnious.' 55 '

After various motions as to the degree of culpabil-
ity attaching to the military officers, the Parliament
agreed upon an Address to the king.t which, after re-
ferring to the previous votes, proceeded : "This being
the state of that whole matter, as it lies before us,
and which, together with the Report transmitted to
your Majesty by the Commission, gives full light to
it, we humbly beg, considering that the Master of
Stair's excess in his letters against the Glenco men

* This "Information" drew forth "Answers" on the part of the
Lord Advocate, supporting the Commission's Report and the votes of
the parliament. Both these papers are printed in the Papers Illus-
trative of the Highlands, the latter being backed, "Answers to the
Information for the Master of Stair upon the affair of Glenco, wrote
by Thomas Spence, and corrected by Sir James Stewart, Lord Advo-
cate, his master."

t July 10, 1695.


has been the original cause of this unhappy business,
and hath given occasion in a great measure to so ex-
traordinary an execution by the warm directions he
gives about doing it by way of surprise, and con-
sidering the high station and trust he is in, and that
he is absent, we do therefore beg that your Majesty
will give such orders about him for vindication of
your Government as you in your royal wisdom shall
think fit.

" And likeways, considering that the actors have
barbarously killed men under trust, we humbly desire
your Majesty would be pleased to send the actors
home, and to give orders to your Advocate to prose-
cute them according to law ; there remaining nothing
else to be done for the full vindication of your Gov-
ernment of so foul and scandalous an aspersion as it
has lain under upon this occasion."

In accordance with this address, a show was made
of bringing several of the immediate and subordinate
actors to trial, but no serious proceeding was ever
instituted against any one concerned. As a result of
the view taken by the Commissioners and by Parlia-
ment, the Master of Stair retired from his office of
Secretary in the summer of 1695 a step which could
hardly be avoided ;* the question of blame as between
the king and the secretary being shortly summed
up in one sentence of a letter from the solicitor-
general Ogilvie to Carstairs " The Master of Stair
is indeed loaded to purpose [in the Report and Ad-

* Bishop Burnet, in his Memoirs, talks of the king dismissing- the
Master of Stair from his service in 1692, although, as stated in the
text, he continued Secretary of State till after the publication of the
Glenco Report in 1695.

198 THE STAIR ANNALS. [1695.

dress] ; but thereby the king is most justly relieved
of all the aspersions raised in that affair of Glenco ;
and I doubt not the Master's letters and our votes,
both in the Commission and Parliament, when
compared, will justify us that we have proceeded

* July 23, 1695 Carstairs State Papers.



The Master becomes by his father's death Viscount Stair, but refrains
from taking his seat in Parliament The king grants him a re-
mission and pardon, as not having been accessary to the barbarous
manner or mode in which the actors in the massacre of Glenco had
execitted their orders After an interval of years resumes his part
in public affairs Is created an Earl by Queen Anne Writes on
the state of parties to Lord Godolphin And on the Union negotia-
tions to Secretary the Earl of Mar Takes a prominent part in
furthering the treaty of Union His death and character.

THE Lord President Stair's death occurring in No-
vember 1695, tne Master became Viscount of Stair,
and, withdrawing for a time from public life, went to
reside upon his estates in Scotland. Such was the
condition of public feeling on the subject of Glenco,
that he prudently refrained, with the king's know-
ledge and assent, from taking his seat as a peer of

That William, as may very naturally be supposed,
did not take the same view as the parliament and the
commission of the secretary's culpability, is evident
from the fact of a royal mandate having been issued,
towards the end of the year, for a letter of remission to
Viscount Stair, freeing him from all the consequences
of his participation in the slaughter of Glenco :

" His Majesty, considering that John Viscount of

200 THE STAIR ANNALS. [1695.

Stair hath been employed on his service for many
years, and in several capacities first, as his Majesty's
Advocate, and thereafter as Secretary of State in
which eminent employments persons are in danger,
either by exceeding or coming short of their duty, to
fall under the severity of law, and become obnoxious
to prosecutions or troubles therefor; and his Majesty-
being well satisfied that the said John Viscount Stair
hath rendered him many painful services, and being
well assured of his affections and good intentions,
and being graciously pleased to pardon, cover, and
secure him, now, after the demission of his office and
that he is divested of public employment, from all
questions, prosecutions, and trouble whatsoever ; and
particularly his Majesty, considering that the manner
of execution of the men of Glenco was contrary to
the laws of humanity and hospitality being done by
those soldiers who, for some days before, had been
quartered amongst them, and entertained by them,
which was a fault in the actors or those who gave the
immediate orders on the place but that the said
Viscount of Stair being at London, many hundred
miles distant, he could have no knowledge of nor
accession to the method of that execution ; and his
Majesty being willing to pardon, forgive, and remit
any excess of zeal, as .going beyond his instructions,
by the said John Viscount Stair, and that he had no
hand in the barbarous manner of execution : his Ma-
jesty therefore ordains a letter of remission to be
made and passed the great Seal of his Majesty's
ancient kingdom," &c.*

* Papers Illustrative of the Highlands, p. 143. This carefully
drawn document bears to be printed from a Scroll of Discharge to John



This remission, by royal letter or Rescript, which
was of more legal force according to the old Scottish
than according to English constitutional law, was
immediately followed by a substantial mark of royal
favour in the shape of a gift of bishops' rents and feu-
duties in the barony of Glenluce, to Viscount Stair
and his heirs, for payment of two competent stipends
to the minister of the parish of Old Glenluce, in which
Stair was the principal heritor, and to the minister of
a new church about to be erected in the same parish.*

During the ensuing two years Lord Stair resided
in comparative seclusion, for the most part of the
time at his house of Newliston. In 1698, a strong
attempt was made by the Earl of Seafield, Lord
Tullibardine, and others, in favour of his taking
his seat in parliament ; " but " (Lord Seafield writes
to Mr Carstairs) " the Justice-Clerk [Cockburn] was
positive that if my Lord Stair did offer to sit in
Parliament he would call for the votes and Address
passed in the '95 concerning the matter of Glenco ;
and, after this, if the vote had carried, ' Allow my
Lord Stair to sit,' when the Commissioner had not
written, we might have been blamed for it." To the
same effect, the royal Commissioner to Parliament
(Earl of Marchmont) wrote to the king that " the
Viscount Stair, intending to come into the House, it

Viscount Stair, preserved in the private archives of the Stair family,
the original deed having been probably destroyed by the fire at Castle
Kennedy in the year 1717. It makes the strongest case possible for
a bad cause ; the argument embodied in it applying, in the concluding
part, to the defence of the king as well as of his secretary.

* Papers Illustrative of the Highlands, p. 143. This deed, like
the former, bears to be printed from a scroll. As possession followed,
and has since continued, upon the grant conveyed by it, there can be
no doubt of its authenticity.

202 THE STAIR ANNALS. [1702.

raised a humour among the members which obliged
me to interpose for dissuading him, wherein I with
difficulty prevailed."*

Sir Hew Dalrymple, third son of the first Lord
Stair a sound lawyer, as well as a gentleman of
worth and amiable character, without the brilliant
talents of his father and brother was now president
of the Session, having been appointed in 1698 to
that office, which had been vacant since the late
Lord President's death in 1695.!

Through the influence of Sir Hew, and the miti-
gation by time of the opposition to his entering
Parliament, Stair was enabled to take the oaths
and his seat in February 1700, an important part
being still reserved for him to play in that assembly
upon the great occasion of the legislative Union of the
kingdoms. Upon the accession of Queen Anne, in
March 1 702, he was sworn a Privy Councillor, and
took part in the proceedings of the last session of the
old Convention parliament of William, which (con-
trary to the constitutional rule upon the death of a
sovereign) was allowed to meet in June. The Duke of
Hamilton and a respectable minority declined sitting
in this rump Parliament, which was presided over by
the Duke of Queensberry (then secretary for Scot-
land) as royal Commissioner. Several important
Acts of a formal character, recognising her Majesty's

* August and September 1698 Carstairs Papers, and Marchmont

f This delay in appointing a President of the Court of Session was
occasioned by the interest made for Sir William Hamilton of Whytlaw
by the Marquis of Athole, Secretary of State for Scotland, the king
ultimately deciding in favour of Dalrymple. Letters of Sir Hew
Dalrymple will appear in the Life of his nephew, the second Earl of


authority, ratifying and confirming the Presbyterian
church government, and enabling the queen to ap-
point commissioners to treat as to a Union of the
kingdoms, were passed without much difficulty. The
parliament was soon after dissolved, and a new par-
liament called for May 1 703 the last Scottish Par-
liament. Previous to the meeting of the new parlia-
ment, Viscount Stair, whose ability in counsel and
debate was fully appreciated by the Godolphin Ad-
ministration, received an accession of rank, and be-
came Earl of Stair.'" He held no office of State
under Queen Anne.

The Duke of Queensberry was again sent down
as Commissioner to the Parliament ; but the recent
elections had brought together a new set of men, and
given rise to difficult complications. In the course of
the session, Lord Stair wrote to Lord Treasurer Godol-
phin the following letter on the state of parties in the
Scottish parliament, distinguishing the Presbyterian,
the Cavalier or Episcopal, and the Duke of Hamilton's
party, sometimes called the Squadrone volante.\

" MY LORD, The duty I owe your Lordship, and
the interest I know you have in her Majesty's affairs,

* April 1703.

t This hitherto unpublished autograph letter of Lord Stair to
Godolphin was acquired at the sale of the Duke of Leeds' family
papers, at Sotheby's, London, in 1869, by John Webster, Esq. of
Aberdeen, in whose possession it now is. It is undated, but from in-
ternal evidence, was probably sent to Lord Godolphin in the first ses-
sion (1703) of Queen Anne's new parliament. A letter of Lord Godol-
phin to the Scottish Chancellor, the Earl of Seafielcl, from an autograph
copy also among the Leeds papers, which, from its date, July 17, 1703,
must have been written during the same session of parliament as that
of Stair to Godolphin, is printed in the appendix to this chapter.

204 THE STAIR ANNALS. [1703.

make me presume to lay before your Lordship the
present state of business here, with my thoughts in re-
lation to the success of this session of our parliament.
In the last parliament there was but two parties, one
with Duke Hamilton, who seemed displeased with the
measures of the Government ; the other was willing
to support it in conjunction with the ministers of
State. In this parliament there appears a third
party, which had lain off during the last reign, but
seems to enter now into her Majesty's interest : we
call this the Cavalier or Episcopal party.

" Had there been no more designed in this session
but the ratifying the last, the approving her Majesty's
accession to the duties of the royal Government, and
getting cess [taxes] for some time, then the faction
had been entirely defeated, and it had been easy for
her Majesty to have done what else in another
session there might seem reasonable and just ; but
the jealousies and animosity of the Presbyterians
and Cavaliers (there being a third party on the field)
renders it very hard to carry on the public affairs,
because either party, when they do not obtain their
pretension, by going into the Duke of Hamilton's
party become the strongest. This did at first stop
the choosing of committees, because our friends,
though the greater numbers, yet would not agree
upon the same persons to be named on these com-
mittees ; whereby Duke Hamilton's people, though
fewer, yet being united, and making their lists of the
same persons, might either vary the committees or
mix them so as to obstruct instead of preparing
business. Therefore we have been obliged to do all
in plain parliament [en plein Parlcment\ In the


first votes both Cavaliers and Presbyterians did
concur to have the exercise of her Majesty's Govern-
ment recognised, as well as her right and title.
From this beginning there was good appearance of
success, and before any differences should fall out,
the Queen's servants were encouraged to proceed to
the supply.

" Both the parties became jealous that if once the
cess was given, then they should fail of their preten-
sion, and the parliament would be adjourned ; and
there was a general combination, in which not only
Duke Hamilton's people, but both Cavaliers and
Presbyterians, did enter into a resolution not to give
cess, nor proceed to any business till first our religion,
liberty, laws and trade were secured. We did
struggle a whole day against a resolve in so general
terms, till next morning two of the Cavaliers were
sent from their meeting to tell my Lord Commis-
sioner that they would leave him and enter into the
general resolve.


" Though there are a very considerable number of
persons both of interest and good sense who will not
depart from his Grace nor the Queen's service, yet
there being such a treachery and madness on all
sides, we could neither resist, nor was there oppor-
tunity to feel their pulses in committees ; therefore
we did submit to necessity, knowing that so con-
siderable a number remaining with the Lord Com-
missioner, these different parties would soon come to
break amongst themselves, and the Queen's servants
would always cast the balance in a short time. So
there came in a multitude of Acts, and more are
designed, whereof the most part are for cutting off

206 THE STAIR ANNALS. [1703.

the prerogative from the successor, in case of her
Majesty's death without issue of her body. There
was one Act given in by the Marquis of Athole for
securing the kingdom and the naming a successor
upon the queen's decease, which in the proposal
appears not ill ; but I am afraid all the bad humours
of the other Acts may come to be cast in with the
clauses of this, and I wish it had not proceeded from
the throne.* The Duke of Argyle got in another
approving the Revolution and the turning the Estates
into a Parliament ; the Earl of Marchmont got in a
third for security of religion and Presbyterian gov-
ernment, t These two last are passed, by which it
appears the Presbyterians are the strongest in the

" The Cavaliers brought in an Act for toleration ;
and after some warm reasoning it was let fall for
that time, and some proposals made for an union or
comprehension of the two persuasions, which is more
reasonable than it is practicable, except there were a
steady State which might oblige both sides to reason.
By this delay the Cavaliers are discouraged, and
Duke Hamilton doth endeavour to profit of our
divisions. Therefore to retain the Presbyterians, he
did vote for the Act establishing and confirming
Presbytery; and to engage the Cavaliers, he declared
he was for toleration, which hath so offended the
Presbyterians at his Grace that a good number of
his old set have quitted him ; and having got satis-

* The second Marquis of Athole was at this time Lord Privy Seal
of Scotland, and on 3oth July of this year [1703] was advanced to be
Duke of Athole. No Act was passed in this session touching the
succession to the crown.

t Anne (1703), c. 2 and 3.


faction in the two Acts passed, they do generally
promise to be for two years' cess to pay the army ;
and that they shall not enter into these new projects
to restrict the monarchy, but shall concur with the
Queen's servants to throw out these motions, and
leave the parliament or States after the Queen's
death to make what terms with the successor they
please, which will be more proper than in her life.

" The Cavaliers' principles, and the service they
pretend for the queen, obliges them neither to oppose
cess, nor yet to -join in those measures that will
diminish the royal authority, except the rancour
against Presbyterians engage them to concur with
Duke Hamilton to break this parliament, in hopes
that another will serve their turn better; whereas
I believe the Cavaliers will hardly be stronger in a
new parliament ; and besides the ferments it would
create in the nation, the south and west countries
would choose their representatives of the most rigid
and bigoted Presbyterians or Republicans that could
be found, which would put matters in worse condition
than at present. Yet the hazard of a new parlia-
ment makes the Presbyterians more tractable and
willing to give supply. They see that whoever
brings in these encroachments on the monarchy,
everybody will lay it at their door : because in
former times Presbyterians did such things, and they
will not willingly lose the assurances they have from
the Queen ; and their leaders are sensible they have
gone a little out of their way, and are willing to
have the reputation that they could both put things
wrong and restore them.

" The aspect of our affairs is somewhat better than

208 THE STAIR ANNALS. [1703.

it was, and I believe, with patience, in a short time
we shall come to rights. The supply will be ob-
tained without further invasion of the prerogative ;
and if the Presbyterians, without whom we cannot
do our business, shall come again to fail [us], then
their settlement will not receive the royal assent : so
their affairs should be more perplexed and uncertain
than they are at present. I do not believe my Lord
Commissioner will trust them so far as to touch their
Acts with the sceptre till the supply be ready too.

" For the toleration, I confess it is reasonable ;
but there hath been so much noise and bustle about
it, and so many wild pamphlets dispersed, treating
both the Revolution and the Presbyterian govern-
ment so harshly, that many who were for the tolera-
tion do not think it of that consequence as to lose
the Presbyterians for it, who are the most numerous
and the most eager party in the parliament. Some
of the Cavalier lords who have been willing to advance
her Majesty's service may be gratified, which will re-
tain them without giving offence to others.

" My Lord, I have great cause to crave pardon for
so tedious a letter to a person charged with so great
affairs ; but I thought it necessary your Lordship
should know how matters are, and what may be
expected, as 'tis all I can contribute to her Majesty's
service. But there neither hath nor shall anything
in my power be wanting whereby I may approve
myself, &c. STAIR."

In this letter, or rather State paper, one cannot
avoid remarking the sagacity as well as coolness and
sangfroid of the political leader trained in a factious


age, showing no serious conviction in favour of any
of the parties of the Scottish parliament, but propos-
ing to manage all of them so as best to carry on the
queen's Government. In the stormy debates which
soon afterwards took place, prior to the passing
of the Act of Union, Lord Stair's ability in argument
and power of speech found ample field for their exer-
cise in promoting that important treaty.

From the factious intrigues of the leaders of the
various parties, and the disastrous result of the
Scottish project of a commercial settlement at Da-
rien, the relations between the kingdoms had been
gradually embittered to such a degree that, when
the negotiation of the treaty was about to open, it
became obvious that the question was between a
separate unfriendly independence of the two states
and a union more or less complete, with a com-
munication to Scotland of the colonial trade and
commercial privileges enjoyed by Englishmen. The
union of the crowns not meeting the exigencies of
the case, it was now come to an issue of open
hostility or closer union. The conduct of the pro-
ceedings in Parliament was committed to the Duke
of Queensberry as royal Commissioner ; but it has
been generally believed that the labour of suggesting
plans and provisions, and putting them in shape to
the satisfaction of his countrymen, was thrown on the
stronger capacity of Lord Stair. * There can be no
doubt that the Duke of Queensberry leant greatly
upon Stair, and highly valued his support. t

* Burton's History of Scotland.

t Secretary Johnston to the Earl of Roxburgh, April 17, 1706
Jerviswood Correspondence (Bannatyne Club), p. 152.


210 THE STAIR ANNALS. [1706.

The following letter was addressed by him, in
January 1706, to John Earl of Mar, then Secretary
of State for Scotland, and is preliminary to the dis-
cussion of the treaty of Union by the English and
Scottish commissioners. It shows forcibly what dif-
ficulties lay in the way of a complete incorporating
union up to the very moment when the Commis-
sioners were preparing to take it in hand. Stair
considered the immediate settlement of the succes-
sion (to which there had been great opposition in
Scotland, especially by the Presbyterian party*) of
'paramount importance at this juncture, as in con-
nection with the union of the kingdoms.

" January 3, 1 706.

" MY LORD, I acknowledge the honour of yours
of the 25th past, in which your Lordship hath been
pleased to give me a full and clear view of our affairs,
how far they have been successful, and where there
is danger that they may miscarry. I am well con-
vinced the English have done very handsomely and
obligingly in repealing all the clauses of their Act
which were either injurious or grievous to us ; t and

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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 15 of 28)