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Timeline of Scottish History

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1719-30 The Argathelians & the Squadrone

Leaving the fortunes of the Jacobite party at their lowest ebb, and turning to the domestic politics of Scotland, after 1719, we find that if it be happiness to have no history, Scotland had much reason to be content.  There was but a dull personal strife between the faction of Argyll and his brother Islay (called the “Argathelians,” from the Latinised Argathelia, or Argyll), and the other faction known, since the Union, as the Squadrone volante, or Flying Squadron, who professed to be patriotically independent. 

As to Argyll, he had done all that man might do for George I.  But, as we saw, the reports of Cadogan and the jealousy of George (who is said to have deemed Argyll too friendly with his detested heir) caused the disgrace of the Duke in 1716, and the Squadrone held the spoils of office.  But between February-April 1719 George reversed his policy, heaped Argyll with favours, made him, as Duke of Greenwich, a peer of England, and gave him the High Stewardship of the Household.

At this time all the sixteen representative peers of Scotland favoured, for various reasons of their own, a proposed Peerage Bill.  The Prince of Wales might, when he came to the throne, swamp the Lords by large new creations in his own interest, and the Bill laid down that, henceforth, not more than six peers, exclusive of members of the Royal Family, should be created by any sovereign; while in place of sixteen representative Scotland should have twenty-five permanent peers.  From his new hatred of the Prince of Wales, Argyll favoured the Bill, as did the others of the sixteen of the moment, because they would be among the permanencies.  The Scottish Jacobite peers (not representatives) and the Commons of both countries opposed the Bill.  The election of a Scottish representative peer at this juncture led to negotiations between Argyll and Lockhart as leader of the suffering Jacobites, but terms were not arrived at; the Government secured a large Whig majority in a general election (1722), and Walpole began his long tenure of office.


In 1724 there were some popular discontents.  Enclosures, as we saw, had scarcely been known in Scotland; when they were made, men, women, and children took pleasure in destroying them under cloud of night.  Enclosures might keep a man’s cattle on his own ground, keep other men’s off it, and secure for the farmer his own manure.  That good Jacobite, Mackintosh of Borlum, who in 1715 led the Highlanders to Preston, in 1729 wrote a book recommending enclosures and plantations.  But when, in 1724, the lairds of Galloway and Dumfriesshire anticipated and acted on his plan, which in this case involved evictions of very indolent and ruinous farmers, the tenants rose.  Multitudes of “Levellers” destroyed the loose stone dykes and slaughtered cattle.  They had already been passive resisters of rent; the military were called in; women were in the forefront of the brawls, which were not quieted till the middle of 1725, when Lord Stair made an effort to introduce manufactures.


Other disturbances began in a resolution of the House of Commons, at the end of 1724, not to impose a Malt Tax equal to that of England (this had been successfully resisted in 1713), but to levy an additional sixpence on every barrel of ale, and to remove the bounties on exported grain.  At the Union Scotland had, for the time, been exempted from the Malt Tax, specially devised to meet the expenses of the French war of that date.  Now, in 1724-1725, Scotland was up in arms to resist the attempt “to rob a poor man of his beer.”  But Walpole could put force on the Scottish Members of Parliament, “a parcel of low people that could not subsist,” says Lockhart, “without their board wages.”  Walpole threatened to withdraw the ten guineas hitherto paid weekly by Government to those legislators.  He offered to drop the sixpence on beer and put threepence on every bushel of malt, a half of the English tax.  On June 23, 1725, the tax was to be exacted.  The consequence was an attack on the military by the mob of Glasgow, who wrecked the house of their Member in Parliament, Campbell of Shawfield.  Some of the assailants were shot: General Wade and the Lord Advocate, Forbes of Culloden, marched a force on Glasgow, the magistrates of the town were imprisoned but released on bail, while in Edinburgh the master brewers, ordered by the Court of Session to raise the price of their ale, struck for a week; some were imprisoned, others were threatened or cajoled and deserted their Union.  The one result was that the chief of the Squadrone, the Duke of Roxburgh, lost his Secretaryship for Scotland, and Argyll’s brother, Islay, with the resolute Forbes of Culloden, became practically the governors of the country.  The Secretaryship, indeed, was for a time abolished, but Islay practically wielded the power that had so long been in the hands of the Secretary as agent of the Court.


The clans had not been disarmed after 1715, moreover 6000 muskets had been brought in during the affair that ended at Glenshiel in 1719.  General Wade was commissioned in 1724 to examine and report on the Highlands: Lovat had already sent in a report.  He pointed out that Lowlanders paid blackmail for protection to Highland raiders, and that independent companies of Highlanders, paid by Government, had been useful, but were broken up in 1717.  What Lovat wanted was a company and pay for himself.  Wade represented the force of the clans as about 22,000 claymores, half Whig (the extreme north and the Campbells), half Jacobite.  The commandants of forts should have independent companies: cavalry should be quartered between Inverness and Perth, and Quarter Sessions should be held at Fort William and Ruthven in Badenoch.  In 1725 Wade disarmed Seaforth’s clan, the Mackenzies, easily, for Seaforth, then in exile, was on bad terms with James, and wished to come home with a pardon.  Glengarry, Clanranald, Glencoe, Appin, Lochiel, Clan Vourich, and the Gordons affected submission—but only handed over two thousand rusty weapons of every sort.  Lovat did obtain an independent company, later withdrawn—with results.  The clans were by no means disarmed, but Wade did, from 1725 to 1736, construct his famous military roads and bridges, interconnecting the forts.

The death of George I. (June 11, 1727) induced James to hurry to Lorraine and communicate with Lockhart.  But there was nothing to be done.  Clementina had discredited her husband, even in Scotland, much more in England, by her hysterical complaints, and her hatred of every man employed by James inflamed the petty jealousies and feuds among the exiles of his Court.  No man whom he could select would have been approved of by the party.

To the bishops of the persecuted Episcopalian remnant, quarrelling over details of ritual called “the Usages,” James vainly recommended “forbearance in love.”  Lockhart, disgusted with the clergy, and siding with Clementina against her husband, believed that some of the wrangling churchmen betrayed the channel of his communications with his king (1727).  Islay gave Lockhart a hint to disappear, and he sailed from Scotland for Holland on April 8, 1727.

Since James dismissed Bolingbroke, every one of his Ministers was suspected, by one faction or another of the party, as a traitor.  Atterbury denounced Mar, Lockhart denounced Hay (titular Earl of Inverness), Clementina told feminine tales for which even the angry Lockhart could find no evidence.  James was the butt of every slanderous tongue; but absolutely nothing against his moral character, or his efforts to do his best, or his tolerance and lack of suspiciousness, can be wrung from documents. {264}

By 1734 the elder of James’s two sons, Prince Charles, was old enough to show courage and to thrust himself under fire in the siege of Gaeta, where his cousin, the Duc de Liria, was besieging the Imperialists.  He won golden opinions from the army, but was already too strong for his tutors—Murray and Sir Thomas Sheridan.  He had both Protestant and Catholic governors; between them he learned to spell execrably in three languages, and sat loose to Catholic doctrines.  In January 1735 died his mother, who had found refuge from her troubles in devotion.  The grief of James and of the boys was acute.

In 1736 Lovat was looking towards the rising sun of Prince Charles; was accused by a witness of enabling John Roy Stewart, Jacobite and poet, to break prison at Inverness, and of sending by him a message of devotion to James, from whom he expected a dukedom.  Lovat therefore lost his sheriffship and his independent company, and tried to attach himself to Argyll, when the affair of the Porteous Riot caused a coldness between Argyll and the English Government (1736-1737).


The affair of Porteous is so admirably well described in ‘The Heart of Mid-Lothian,’ and recent research  has thrown so little light on the mystery (if mystery there were), that a brief summary of the tale may suffice.

In the spring of 1736 two noted smugglers, Wilson and Robertson, were condemned to death.  They had, while in prison, managed to widen the space between the window-bars of their cell, and would have escaped; but Wilson, a very stoutly built man, went first and stuck in the aperture, so that Robertson had no chance.  The pair determined to attack their guards in church, where, as usual, they were to be paraded and preached at on the Sunday preceding their execution.  Robertson leaped up and fled, with the full sympathy of a large and interested congregation, while Wilson grasped a guard with each hand and a third with his teeth.  Thus Robertson got clean away—to Holland, it was said,—while Wilson was to be hanged on April 14.  The acting lieutenant of the Town Guard—an unpopular body, mainly Highlanders—was John Porteous, famous as a golfer, but, by the account of his enemies, notorious as a brutal and callous ruffian.  The crowd in the Grassmarket was great, but there was no attempt at a rescue.  The mob, however, threw large stones at the Guard, who fired, killing or wounding, as usual, harmless spectators.  The case for Porteous, as reported in ‘The State Trials,’ was that the attack was dangerous; that the plan was to cut down and resuscitate Wilson; that Porteous did not order, but tried to prevent, the firing; and that neither at first nor in a later skirmish at the West Bow did he fire himself.  There was much “cross swearing” at the trial of Porteous (July 20); the jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to be hanged on September 8.  A petition from him to Queen Caroline (George II. was abroad) drew attention to palpable discrepancies in the hostile evidence.  Both parties in Parliament backed his application, and on August 28 a delay of justice for six weeks was granted.

Indignation was intense.  An intended attack on the Tolbooth, where Porteous lay, had been matter of rumour three days earlier: the prisoner should have been placed in the Castle.  At 10 P.M. on the night of September 7 the magistrates heard that boys were beating a drum, and ordered the Town Guard under arms; but the mob, who had already secured the town’s gates, disarmed the veterans.  Mr Lindsay, lately Provost, escaped by the Potter Row gate (near the old fatal Kirk-o’-Field), and warned General Moyle in the Castle.  But Moyle could not introduce soldiers without a warrant.  Before a warrant could arrive the mob had burned down the door of the Tolbooth, captured Porteous—who was hiding up the chimney,—carried him to the Grassmarket, and hanged him to a dyer’s pole.  The only apparent sign that persons of rank above that of the mob were concerned, was the leaving of a guinea in a shop whence they took the necessary rope.  The magistrates had been guilty of gross negligence.  The mob was merely a resolute mob; but Islay, in London, suspected that the political foes of the Government were engaged, or that the Cameronians, who had been renewing the Covenants, were concerned.

Islay hurried to Edinburgh, where no evidence could be extracted.  “The High Flyers of our Scottish Church,” he wrote, “have made this infamous murder a point of conscience. . . .  All the lower rank of the people who have distinguished themselves by the pretensions of superior sanctity speak of this murder as the hand of God doing justice.”  They went by the precedent of the murder of Archbishop Sharp, it appears.  In the Lords (February 1737) a Bill was passed for disabling the Provost—one Wilson—for public employment, destroying the Town Charter, abolishing the Town Guard, and throwing down the gate of the Nether Bow.  Argyll opposed the Bill; in the Commons all Scottish members were against it; Walpole gave way.  Wilson was dismissed, and a fine of £2000 was levied and presented to the widow of Porteous.  An Act commanding preachers to read monthly for a year, in church, a proclamation bidding their hearers aid the cause of justice against the murderers, was an insult to the Kirk, from an Assembly containing bishops.  It is said that at least half of the ministers disobeyed with impunity.  It was impossible, of course, to evict half of the preachers in the country.

Argyll now went into opposition against Walpole, and, at least, listened to Keith—later the great Field-Marshal of Frederick the Great, and brother of the exiled Earl Marischal.

In 1737 the Jacobites began to stir again: a committee of five Chiefs and Lords was formed to manage their affairs.  John Murray of Broughton went to Rome, and lost his heart to Prince Charles—now a tall handsome lad of seventeen, with large brown eyes, and, when he pleased, a very attractive manner.  To Murray, more than to any other man, was due the Rising of 1745.

Meanwhile, in secular affairs, Scotland showed nothing more remarkable than the increasing dislike, strengthened by Argyll, of Walpole’s Government.

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