Page images
PDF
EPUB

53 Great precautions, therefore, were used by the CHAP. Scottish malcontents in their representation to the LXVI. King; but no redress was obtained. Charles loaded

1678. them with caresses, and continued Lauderdale in his authority.

A very bad, at least a severe use was made of this authority. The privy council dispossessed twelve gentlemen or noblemen of their houses *; which were converted into so many garrisons, established for the suppression of conventicles. The nation, it was pretended, was really, on account of these religious assemblies in a state of war; and by the ancient law, the King, in such an emergence, was empowered to place a garrison in any house where he should judge it expedient.

Ir were endless to recount every act of violence and arbitrary authority exercised during Lauderdale's administration. All the lawyers were put from the bar, nay banished, by the King's order, twelve miles from the capital, and by that means the whole justice of the kingdom was suspended for a year ; till these lawyers were brought to declare it as their opinion, that all appeals to parliament were illegal. A letter was procured from the King, for expelling twelve of the chief magistrates of Edinburgh, and declaring them incapable of all public office, though their only crime had been their want of compliance with Lauderdale. The boroughs of Scotland have a privilege of meeting once a-year by their deputies, in order to consider the state of trade, and make bye-laws for its regulation: In this convention a petition was voted, complaining of some late acts, which obstructed commerce, and praying the King that he would empower his commissioner, in the next session of parliament, to give his assent for repealing them. For this presumption, as it was called, several of the members were fined and imprisoneda One More, a

[blocks in formation]

CHA P. member of parliament, having moved in the house, LXVI. that, in imitation of the English parliament, no bill 1678.

should pass except after three readings; he was for this pretended offence, immediately sent to prison by the commissioner.

The private deportment of Lauderdale was as insolent and provoking as his public administration was violent and tyrannical. Justice likewise was universally perverted by faction and interest : And from the great rapacity of that Duke, and still more of his Dutchess, all offices and favours were openly put to sale. No one was allowed to approach the throne who was not dependent on him ; and no remedy could be hoped for or obtained against his manifold oppressions. The case of Mitchel shews that this minister was as much destitute of truth and honour, as of lenity and justice.

MITCHEL was a desperate fanatic, and had entertained a resolution of assassinating Sharpe, Archbishop of St. Andrews, who, by his former apostacy and subsequent rigour, had rendered himself extremely odious to the covenanters. In the year 1668, Mitchel fired a pistol at the Primate, as he was sitting in his coach; but the Bishop of Orkney stepping into the coach, happened to stretch out his arm, which intercepted the ball, and was much shattered by it. This happened in the principal street of the city ; but so generally was the Archbishop hated, that the assassin was allowed peaceably to walk off; and having turned a street or two, and thrown off a wig, which disguised him, he immediately appeared in public, and remained altogether unsuspected. Some years after, Sharpe remarked one, who seemed to eye him very eagerly; and being still anxious lest an attempt of assassination should be renewed, he ordered the man to be seized and examined. Two loaded pistols were found upon him; and as he was now concluded to be the author of the former attempt, Sharpe promised, that, if he would confess his guilt, he should be dismissed without any punishment. Mit- CHAP. chel (for the conjecture was just) was so credulous LXVI. as to believe him; but was immediately produced

should

1678. before the council by the faithless Primate. The council, having no proof against him, but hoping to involve the whole body of covenanters in this odious crime, solemnly renewed the promise of pardon, if he would make a full discovery ; and it was a great disappointment to them, when they found, upon his confession, that only one person, who was now dead, had been acquainted with his bloody purpose. Mitchel was then carried before a court of judicature, and required to renew his confession ; but being apprehensive, lest, though a pardon for life had been promised him, other corporal punishment might still be inflicted, he refused compliance, and was sent back to prison. He was next examined before the council, under pretence of his being concerned in the insurrection at Pentland; and though no proof appeared against him, he was put to the question, and contrary to the most obvious principles of equity, was urged to accuse himself. He endured the torture with singular resolution, and continued obstinate in the denial of a crime, of which, it is believed, he really was not guilty. Instead of obtaining his liberty, he was sent to the Bass, a very high rock surrounded by the sea; at this time converted into a state prison, and full of the unhappy covenanters.

He there remained in great misery, loaded with irons, till the year 1677, when it was resolved by some new examples, to strike a fresh terror into the persecuted but still obstinate enthusiasts. Mitchel was then brought before a court of judicature, and put upon his trial for an attempt to assassinate an Archbishop and a privycounsellor. His former confession was pleaded against him, and was proved by the testimony of the Duke of Lauderdale, lord commissioner, Lord

Hatton

E4

CHAP. Hatton his brother, the Earl of Rothes, and the LXVI. Primate himself. Mitchel, besides maintaining that 1678.

the privy-council was no court of judicature, and that a confession before them was not judicial, asserted that he had been engaged to make that confession by a solemn promise of pardon. The four privy-counsellors denied upon oath that any such promise had ever been given. The prisoner then desired that the council books might be produced in court; and even offered a copy of that day's proceedings to be read; but the privy-counsellors maintained, that, after they had made oath, no farther proof could be admitted ; and that the books of council contained the King's secrets, which were on no account to be divulged. They were not probably aware, when they swore, that the clerk, having engrossed the promise of pardon in the narrative of Mitchel's confession, the whole minute had been signed by the chancellor, and that the proofs of their perjury were by that means committed to record. Though the prisoner was condemned, Lauderdale was still inclined to pardon him ; but the unrelenting Primate rigorously insisted upon his execution; and said, that if assassins remained unpunished, his life must be exposed to perpetual danger. Mitchel was accordingly executed at Edinburgh in January 1678.

Such a complication of cruelty and treachery shews the character of those ministers to whom the King had, at this time, entrusted the government of Scotland.

LAUDERDALE's administration, besides the iniquities arising from the violence of his temper, and the still greater iniquities inseparable from all projects of persecution, was attended with other circum. stances, which engaged him in severe and arbitrary measures. An absolute government was to be introduced, which on its commencement is often most 3

rigorous; rigorous ; and tyranny was still obliged, for want of CHAP. military power, to cover itself under an appearance of LXVI. law; a situation which rendered it extremely awkward

1678. in its motions, and, by provoking opposition, extended the violence of its oppressions.

THE rigours exercised against conventicles, instead of breaking the spirit of the fanatics, had tended only, as is usual, to render them more obstinate, to increase the fervour of their zeal, to link them more closely together, and to inflame them against the established hierarchy. The commonalty, almost every where in the south, particularly in the western counties, frequented conventicles without reserve; and the gentry, though they themselves commonly abstained from these illegal places of worship, connived at this irregularity in their inferiors. In order to interest the former on the side of the persecutors, a bond or contract was, by order of the privy council, tendered to the landlords in the west, by which they were to engage for the good behaviour of their tenants; and in case any tenant frequented a conventicle, the landlord was to subject himself to the same fine, as could by law be exacted from the delinquent. It was ridiculous to give sanction to laws by voluntary contracts: It was iniquitous to make one man answerable for the conduct of another : It was illegal to impose such hard conditions upon men, who had nowise offended. For these reasons the greater part of the gentry refused to sign these bonds; and Lauderdale, enraged at this opposition, endeavoured to break their spirit by expedients which were still more unusual and more arbitrary.

The law enacted against conventicles, had called them seminaries of rebellion. This expression, which was nothing but a flourish of rhetoric, Lauderdale and the privy council were willing to understand in a literal sense ; and because the western counties abounded in conventicles, though otherwise in profound peace, they pretended that these counties were

in

« PreviousContinue »