« PreviousContinue »
the hierarchy; the other sullen and discontented at the promotion of time-serving politicians like the Stairs, who had suffered little or nothing in the "good cause," and even held office when that "cause" was being subjected to its most trying ordeal. But Dalrymple was not to be daunted, either by such a combination, or by the personal hatred of intriguers like Hamilton and Athole. The tolerant King, it is well known had no particular objection to Episcopacy even for Scotland; indeed, his earliest schemes for settling the peace of the North would seem to have proceeded on the assumption that the system might be continued as the established form of belief. But Carstairs knew the temper of his countrymen better, and exercised the great influence he justly possessed with the King in private to promote the design openly advocated by Dalrymple for setting up Presbyterianism on a just, rational, and moderate footing. The settlement of 1690 was never put to a more severe trial than during the discussions which took place three years later on the Oath of Assurance, providing for the admission of Episcopalians within the fold of the new Establishment, provided they acknowledged William as King de jure and de facto. Those whom it was intended to relieve clamoured for a far greater measure of relief, while the Church it was intended to strengthen looked askance at the proposal as full of Erastianism—nothing short of bending the knee to Cæsar. The part taken by Dalrymple at this precise stage has never been made very clear, but it is fairly open to infer that he promoted the resolution ultimately arrived at, of leaving the settlement of 1690 undisturbed.
The tragedy of Glencoe, standing alone as it does in Scottish history for cool treachery and merciless atrocity, may yet be said to have a kind of remote. connection with events of over two years preceding its consummation. It was even connected in no indistinct way with that great confederation of princes concerned in protecting the liberties of Europe under the direction of William of Orange. Wishful to transport to the Netherlands such troops as could be spared, the King declined following up the advantage gained at Killiecrankie in the summer of 1689, with the result that the clans became more disorderly and threatening than ever, and perplexed statesmen with far higher scruples than any to which Dalrymple
ever pretended. To get some measure of peace restored in what was to him a remote and worthless part of the kingdom, William gladly listened to a proposal for securing the allegiance of the chiefs by the offer of an indemnity and the division among them of £12,000 as a gratuity. To Lord Breadalbane was committed the invidious task of distributing the fund, and, though no doubt was ever cast on his honesty in this matter, it is certain there was never any real justification for his sharp retort to Nottingham on being asked to account for the money—" The Highlands, my Lord, are quiet, and the money spent; that is the best accounting among friends." The Highlands were not quiet even when the oaths came to be taken at the close of 1691. Tarbat's gratuity plan was from the first opposed by the Master of Stair, who plainly said that the only way to restore and maintain order in the Highlands, was to enforce with a firm hand obedience to law, and to draft off a large portion of the population kept up by rival chiefs for purposes of pride or robbery. His natural hatred of the Highland race as turbulent and troublesome was roused to fury as he saw chance after chance pass away of suppressing what he described as "a thing deplorable in any Christian country." The taking of the oath gave the Master another opportunity for which he was watching. He seems to have originally contemplated nothing less than breaking up and extirpating the entire clan system. In a letter to Sir Thomas Livingston, dated January 7, 1692, he says, "You know in general that the troops posted at Inverness and Inverlochie will be ordered to take in the house of Invergarrie, and to destroy entirely the country of Lochaber, Lochiel's lands, Keppoch's, Glengarie's, and Glencoe." He adds, "I assure you your power shall be full enough, and I hope the soldiers will not trouble the Government with prisoners." In sending Livingston the instructions, signed and countersigned by the King on the 11th January, "to march the troops against the rebels who had not taken the benefit of the indemnity, and to destroy them by fire and sword," he said in his letter as a hint to Livingston how to act-"Just now my lord Argyle tells me that Glencoe hath not taken the oath, at which I rejoice. It is a great work of charity to be exact in rooting out that damnable sect, the worst of the Highlands." Additional instructions, bearing
date 16th January, were sent to Livingston, and in the letter containing them, Secretary Dalrymple said, “For a just example of vengeance, I entreat the thieving tribe of Glencoe may be rooted out to purpose." A duplicate of these instructions was at the same time sent by him to Colonel Hill, governor of Fort-William, with a similar letter.
The oath fell to be taken on or before the 1st January, 1692. Old MacIan Macdonald of Glencoe offered to comply at Fort-William on that day, but found the Sheriff had gone to Inverary, and the inclement season made the second journey unusually tedious. The roll was ultimately returned with a certificate explaining the cause of delay. The certificate was first suppressed and Macdonald's name afterwards deleted from the roll-a fraud for which the Master of Stair has had to bear even a greater share of the odium than his Royal Master who signed an order to the Commander of the Forces in Scotland:--"As for Maclan of Glencoe and that tribe, if they can be well distinguished from the other Highlanders, it will be proper for the vindication of public justice to extirpate that set of thieves." In his defence of William, generally admitted to be more ingenious than convincing, Macaulay discusses "extirpation" as in itself an innocent legal term, expressive of the primary duty of a Government to extirpate all clans whose chief business was to steal cattle and to burn houses. This, however, does not meet the case, evading as it does, and not very adroitly, the graver portion of the charge made against King William and his government in Scotland. It may, and no doubt is, as the historian insists in many passages of his writings, one of the primary duties of a Government to protect life and property, and therefore, naturally, to take all proper means for "extirpating" thieves. But this surely cannot be set down as meaning that every thief is first to consider himself as pardoned, then to be entrapped into a display of friendly hospitality to his rulers, and finally to be murdered in his sleep without the pretence of even a form of trial. It is the mingled treachery and ruthless cruelty which burned the recollection of Glencoe into the hearts of all Scotsmen at home and abroad, and even threatened complications with Continental allies.
The soldiers appointed to carry out the deed of darkness were 120 in number, and mostly Campbells, hereditary foes of the Macdonalds. They entered the glen early in February, were received with unsuspecting hospitality, and basely repaid the kindness by rising at a concerted signal about four o'clock on the morning of the 12th to carry through their bloody mission of "mauling them in the long nights of winter." Men, women, and children, to the number of 38 in all, were treacherously put to death, many of them in their bed unconscious, and about 150 escaped to the hills, to endure hardships worse to face than death. The body of the old chief himself was found among the slain, his gray hair dabbled in blood. During the month of March, as mentioned before, it was known in a general way in Edinburgh that the Macdonalds had come to an untimely end, but it was not till April that the "Paris Gazette" published the news to the world. Even then theerwas so little popular excitement on the subject that Dalrymple continued to hold unmolested the offices of Scottish Secretary and Lord-Advocate. But details of the treacherous outrage could not be long concealed. Public indignation rose in proportion as each terrible fact got whispered about; and to anticipate as far as possible any action which might be taken in the Scottish Parliament, Dalrymple resigned his offices before the end of that year so fatal to the reputation of King William and himself. With a dilatoriness not creditable to the King the Report of a Royal Commission regarding the massacre was delayed for over three years, when a resolution was come to "that William's instructions afforded no warrant for the measure;" but, "considering that the Master of Stair's excess in his letters against the Glencoe men has been the original cause of this unhappy business, and hath given occasion in a great measure to so extraordinary an execution, by the warm directions he gives about doing it by way of surprise, and considering the 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 likewise, 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 prosecute them according to law." It is but right to say that letters to and from Breadalbane, in the charter-chest at Taymouth, give colour to the opinion that King William was cognisant of all that passed in Scotland, discussing in particular this Highland matter so frequently with Stair, Queensberry, and Tarbat, as to make it all but certain that Glencoe fell into the trap prepared really for Keppoch and Glengarry. "Tarbat (writes Stair) thinks that Keppoch will be a more proper example of severity, but he hath not a house so proper for a garrison, and he hath not been so forward to ruin himself, and all the rest. But, I confess, both's best to be ruined."
The Lord-President succeeded his father as second Viscount in November of the same year (1695), but public feeling regarding the Glencoe outrage had increased to such a pitch that he declined taking his seat in Parliament for five years. Soon after the accession of Queen Anne he was sworn a Privy Councillor and created Earl of Stair. As one of the Commissioners for framing the Treaty of Union the Earl of Stair gave it powerful support in its passage through Parliament. The Earl died suddenly January 8, 1707, his last speech being delivered that day in the course of an animated debate on one of the closing articles of the treaty providing for the election of representative Peers and the number of members to be sent to the Commons. Active and prominent as Stair had always been in the public service of his country (except during the Glencoe retirement), he had yet not reached the age of more than fifty-nine years at death.
An evil destiny still seemed to follow the family, notwithstanding all their gifts and worldly prosperity, John, second son of preceding, and successor in the Earldom, having the misfortune when a mere boy to shoot his elder brother by accident. Earl John had seen service under Marlborough at Ramilies and Malplaquet. As British Ambassador at Paris he manifested considerable hostility to the schemes of Law, the Finance Minister, which led to his being recalled, when he took up his residence at Newliston, to pass his leisure time in planting