Page images
PDF
EPUB

place the conspiracy to the King's side, all the goodness shewn, and all the gifts bestowed, were employed with much wisdom and policy, to soften the sentiments of men, and put to silence their ill-natured conjectures and reflections on this subject. A long and violently contended for preference to a rival burgh, must have been extremely flattering; a donation to the poor is always a popular deed ; if, therefore, the gift to the hospital should come to be known, it would prove an acceptable present to the people ; but if it could be kept secret, (and I appeal to the impartial world, if its being kept an impenetrable secret for more than a hundred and fifty years does not give reason to believe that there was a settled scheme of covering it with perpetual obscurity), in this way, that donation, which was nominally to the hospital, was actually to the township, to the people of power in the place, and was meant as a bribe to make them have favourable thoughts, or at least keep silence about la s Majesty's conduct in the matter of Earl Gowrie and his brother's death.

I have one other fact to mention, which concurs with the foregoing, in giving ground to believe, that King James took no little pains, at this particular period, to conciliate the affections of the citizens of Perth, and to procure popularity among them. A manuscript chronicle, preserved in the town, called Mercer's Manuscript, of very good credit, contains the following particulars. April the 15th, 1601. The King's Majesty came to Perth, and was made burgess at the market-cross, subscribed the Guildbook with his own hand, Jacobus Rex,-Parcere subjectis, et debellare superbos. There were eight pun

cheons

cheons of wine set down at the cross, and all drunken out. He received the banquet of the town." The same story of their having been a vast banquet and riot at Perth on that day, when his Majesty and courtiers, together with the magistrates and chief people of the place, were entertained at the expence of the town, is instructed by other vouchers ; particularly, by the manuscript chronicle of one Patrick Dundee; and the record of his Majesty having then been made burgess with his own subscription, as mentioned above, is still extant at Perth ; and a descriptive poem of that burgh, lately published *, bears, that the King was then made Provost of that town. To no other burgh did his Majesty shew so much respect; and this vast favour was crowded, within a smaller space than the compass of one year after Earl Gowrie's death. Perth was then a most darling object; but it does not appear that this partiality was continued to Perth, after gifts and feasting had quieted the tongues, and reconciled the minds of this honoured town to their then liberal and festive monarch. These circumstances in his Majesty's conduct are not the features of innocence; they do not express either suspicion or resentment of evil having been contrived against him there ; but if the King himself, and those who acted with him in the matter, have contrived this most wicked deed, no conduct could be more artfully conceived, to quench the clamours of men, and to smother the remembrance of mischief.

I shall add a few observations, which have occurred chiefly by reading Lord Cromarty's account of this trial. The deposition of Andrew Henderson, who says that he was secretly lodged in the closet, stuffed

in The Muse's Threnodie,

in his coat of mail, without being instructed and preengaged for the part he was to act, gives an air of fic. tion to his whole evidence. Who can believe that he could be put upon such desperate service without be. ig told of it, and understanding to go through with it ? Such an attempt was not to be trusted, except to one whose passions were excited and courage roused, to encounter the dangers, and overcome the horrors, of such a shocking deed. The conduct of the two brothers, and their last words, as witnessed after they were gone by the very persons who slew them, betray no consciousness of guilt nor indifference about character. Mr Alexander Ruthven was killed coming down the turnpike-stair from the closet; he had been twice wounded in the closet, and was thereafter run through the body. He made an effort, and was able, before he expired, to turn up his face to them who had pierced him, and to say, “ Alas! he was not to blame." Sir Thomas Erskine, and those who were with him, running at the King's cry towards the closet, and finding Lord Gowrie in the close before the house-door, seized him, saying, “ Thou art the traitor ;" on which he asked what was the matter, and said he did not know with respect to the characters of the two brothers. The King says he was informed of Mr Alexander and the Duke of Lennox. Depones, That he informed him that he always acted as a man of prudence and worth. With respect to the Earl, himself, at the university of Padua, where he had been at his education, he was so much regarded, that in his last

year there he was made rector of their college. He was much esteemed by Theodore Beza; and in the short time he lived after his return, his behaviour was

open

[ocr errors]

age, and

open and candid, as in opposition to the tax proposed by his Majesty, there appeared no reserve or cunning, much less any thing dark or diabolical, about him. There is nothing alledged respecting his character similar to such a deed, or that seems to approach it. In King James's character, on the other hand, there are several particulars that are equally atrocious.

The execution of William, the first Earl of Gowrie, after his Majesty was seventeen years

of had taken the government upon himself, for a fault which, when tried by the practice or opinion of the nation in those days, was not very great, and for which the King had solemnly pardoned him, and lived with him as fully reconciled, was not much inferior to it. The murder of Lord Down about the year 1590, shortly before made Earl of Murray by the courtesy of Scotland, he having married the Countess of Murray, daughter and heiress of the good Regent, as he was called, for no other offence but because this marriage, which was offered to him by the lady's mother and herself, interfered with his politics, was fully as bad as that of Earl Gowrie and his brother; and our own historians generally say, that the King set on the Marquis of Huntly, and Goodin of Bucky, who burned the castle of Dunnybristle, and murdered the

and it is affirmed, that, with design to remove the odium of the nation, which his Majesty had incurred by this cruel assassination, he went into the General Assembly, and made that hypocritical declaration about the Presbyterian church of Scotland being the purest in the world, and that he was resolved to protect it to his life's end. His conduct in pardoning the Earl and Countess of Somerset, for the unexam

pled

Earl ;

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

pled murder of Sir Thomas Overburry, though hë had prayed that God might curse him and his postes rity if he pardoned them, and the execution of that great man, Sir Walter Raleigh, do clearly shew that dissimulation and artifice, cunning and cruelty, were striking features in James's character, and that

supposing him to have ordered the killing of Earl Gowrie and his brother, it is not a singular nor anomalous circumstance in his history.

There was an appendix to, or second edition of this plot, which made so much noise some years after, that it will probably be expected I should take some notice of it when canvassing this subject. In the year 1608, the Earl of Dunbar informed the King's advocate that one Sprott, a notary at Eyemouth, knew something of some secret plotting between the deceased Earl of Gowrie and Logan of Restalrig, then also deceased, against King James. Sprott is apprehended by order of the said Lord Advocate, and he confessed that he had seen letters wrote by Restalrig about such a business, among the papers of one Laird Bower, who had been servant to Restalrig; and that he had abstracted the principal one, which he directed them how to find among his papers ; and he said that he had concealed this matter till all the persons concerned in it were dead.

He does not seem, then, to have thought that he was concerned in it himself, or had reason to apprehend any danger to his own person. His papers are searched, and instead of one, five letters are produced, four of them signed Restalrig, the other not signed at all, at least the subscription taken away, and none of them addressed to any person; and several clergymen and others deponed, that they belies

« PreviousContinue »