Page images


BOOK rich and recommend itself, by oppression, to the court. The most ruinous penaltics were ordered to be levied without mitigation; and the people, sensible that unless they conformed they were utterly ruined, returned in a body, but with marked aversion or contempt, to the churches, where, in some places, a sermon had been discontinued for many years. The persecution of conventicles became far more severe, and the administration of justice more corrupt than ever: the execution of fanatics became daily more frequent: even the military were invested with justiciary powers; and the ingenious cruelty of the justiciary court was exhausted in the invention of new laws and of new crimes. As if the insurrection at Bothwell › were not yet avenged, Huine, an inconsiderable trial and landlord, and as such excepted from the indemnity, was convicted without evidence of having acceded to the rebellion, because his defence was repugnant to the indictment, or in other words, because it was contrary to the crimes of which he was accused. But his father had sat as a juryman on the trial of Haddow, the chancellor's grandfather; and as if a retribution were due to the duke's religion, the anniversary of Stafford's death was selected for his execution+7. Another trial, of which the consequences were more extensive and memorable, created an alarm through the Laurie or Wier of Blackwood




Blackwood's il

legal sen whole kingdom.


47 Fount. Mem. Wodrow, ii. 268. Burnet, ii. 340.


was convicted of treason for conversing with te- BOOK nants involved in the guilt of rebellion. They had remained for two years unmolested, neither prosecuted nor intercommuned, but the judicial presumptions on which he was condemned, were strung together in a manner that exhibits a curious specimen of the logic and inventive subtlety of an iniquitous court. As every good subject was bound to discover those whom he suspected of treason, it was treason to converse with a suspected person, however innocent he might prove. But a person once engaged in a rebellion, must be presumed to incur the suspicion of the neighbourhood. The suspicion of the whole neighbourhood must be known to each individual in it. But it was proved that the persons with whom Blackwood had conversed, had been concerned in rebellion, and presumed, as the sole ground of his conviction, that their treason could not have escaped his notice, nor have failed to excite his suspicion. His execution was frequently respited, as his attainder sufficed to establish a lucrative precedent for a new and a comprehensive crime 48. A proclamation Its exten was issued against all who had ever harboured or quences. communed with rebels: circuit courts of justiciary were appointed for their trial and condemnation as traitors; and this inquisition was to subsist for

sive conse

48 Burnet, 243. Fount. Dec. i. 213. Burnet calls him Wier, he or his father having married the heiress of Wier of Blackwood, and assumed that name. Nisbet's Heraldry.



BOOK three years, when an indemnity was promised; but an immediate absolution was conferred on such as accepted the test. The proclamation, since Alva's persecutions in the Netherlands, the most atrocious perhaps which the world had yet seen, comprehended twenty thousand who had held a promiscuous intercourse with rebels, and who were reduced to the cruel alternative of perjury or treason. In the succeeding circuits it was strictly executed in every article, nor did the ministry dissemble their wishes, that the people might be compelled by its rigour to abandon the kingdom; but the people flocked to the test, as they did to church; protesting that they received it against their conscience, to avoid destruction to themselves 49.


Conspiracy in England.

Wearied, however, with the tyranny which they had long endured, and terrified at the prospect of the severer tyranny for which they were reserved, the presbyterians were disposed to yield to the design, and to abandon a kingdom where none were safe. The wealthy, alarmed at Blackwood's attainder, prepared to settle or to sell their estates. A scheme concerted during Lauderdale's oppression was revived, to establish a

49 Fount. Dec. Burnet, ii. 345. "When Dundonald-re"gretted the devastation of the west by the highlanders, Lau"derdale replied, that it were better the country bore windle "straws and sand larks than boor rebels to the king. This, "though not fond of quoting his authority, they now repeat"ed to the king." Fount. Mem. MS.

colony in America, and to transport themselves and their followers to its unpeopled wilds. Thirtysix noblemen and gentlemen entered into the association, and their agents contracted with the patentees of South Carolina for an extensive settlement, where their freedom, their religion, and their name, might be preserved 50. The scheme was encouraged by James, who preferred a desolate country to a disaffected people. But the exclusionists in England, alarmed at the approaching danger of the duke's succession, had projected on the sudden illness of Charles, an early insurrection in the event of his death. After the retreat and death of Shaftesbury, Russel and Sidney renewed the communication with the discontented city, exasperated at the loss of its chartered privileges; and they invited the Scots to co-operate, while the plan of insurrection extended through England, Men about to abandon their country from oppression, were prepared for the most desperate enterprize to preserve it. Under the pretext of the American expedition or purchase, lord Melvile, sir John Cochran of Ochiltree, Baillie of Jerviswood, Monro, sir John Campbell of Cesnock, and sir George his son, were invited and repaired to London, to consult with Monmouth and the council of six. A treaty was opened by means of Carstairs, a clergyman, with Argyle and the Scottish exiles in Holland. Ten thousand pounds were

50 Wodrow, ii. 230.




BOOK demanded for the purchase of arms, with which Argyle undertook to begin an insurrection in the west of Scotland. The earl of Tarras, Monmouth's brother-in-law, was instigated to take arms with his friends on the borders, as soon as the first signal of revolt was sounded in England. No. thing, however, was yet determined nor properly matured. Money was not provided for Argyle, nor were the Scottish conspirators satisfied with the dilatory caution of their English confederates, whom they regarded as a disjointed cabal, fit only to debate, but incapable of an insurrection, which was daily deferred. While they sent to restrain the impetuosity of their countrymen, they determined, unless greater vigour were immediately adopted, to separate from the confederacy, and to consult for themselves 51.


Discovery of the Rye

An insurrection entrusted to so many, and dehouse plot. layed so long, could not remain concealed. A separate plot, upon which the subordinate conspirators had discoursed, but concerted nothing, was first detected, to assassinate the king and his brother at the Ryehouse, on their return from Newmarket; and the virtuous Russel, the heroical Sidney, suffered for a conspiracy of which they were ignorant. The Scottish conspirators were implicated in the discovery; and Argyle's letters, which perplexed the most skilful decypherers,

5 Sprat's Account of the Ryehouse Plot, 26. 647. Carstair's State Papers, 10. 14.

« PreviousContinue »