Изображения страниц


tion of two

BOOK unhappy recusants were crowded into prisons, and when the evidence was defective, were convicted 1684. on their own oaths, of an intercourse with rebels; the prevailing crime from which few were exProscrip- empt. At the conclusion of the first circuit, a thousand. proscriptive list of two thousand outlaws, or fugitives from justice, was proclaimed to the nation; and to the mockery of all regular government, subordinate, or rather intermediate circuits were held by officers invested with justiciary powers, who summoned juries, administered tortures or oaths at discretion, and practised every species of extortion or outrage which is to be expected when the military are entrusted with the execution of the laws 58. When revenue becomes the sole or the principal object of government, no nation can ever be truly happy, or exempt from the operation of the most vexatious laws; but woe to that devoted country, where the penalties exacted from the wretched inhabitants constitute a fixed, and regular subject of finance! The fines imposed upon nonconformists and recusants, were diligently collected as a source of public revenue in Scotland and to render them the more extensive and more deeply ruinous, a question was moved in the privy council, whether husbands, liable by statute for the attendance of their wives on conventicles, were not equally amenable for their absence from church. The men had generally

58 Wodrow, ii. 318. 401. App. 105. Fount. Dec. i, 235.


returned to public worship, from which their BOOK wives, who were unnoticed in the act, abstained; and the earl of Aberdeen, the chancellor, feeling his credit undermined at court, adhered strictly to the laws, which was termed popular moderation in these furious times. But the act comprehended all persons deserting the church; man and wife were the same person; and the conclusion, that the husband should incur the penalties of his wife's transgression, was embraced by Queensberry in order to replenish the treasury, and by Perth from an avowed maxim that the presbyterians were to be governed with an extreme rigour, or rather to be exterminated, as enemies irreconcileable to the duke's succession. When the question was referred to Charles, who had ever despised the conscience of women, as much as he esteemed their persons, he, at the instigation of his brother, determined, most ungallantly, that husbands were responsible for the offences, or the absences of their wives from church. To the presbyterians this decision was of deep importance. Their ladies for many years had withdrawn from church; and their estates were exposed, by an accumulation of penalties, to the mercy of the crown. Within eleven counties, the penalties exacted, of every denomination, amounted to an hundred and eighty thousand pounds sterling; and other shires, to avoid the destructive visitation of the circuit courts, submitted to the land-tax, be



BOOK yond the period for which it was granted by parliament 59. Nor were the forfeitures for which numbers compounded, included in this estimation of fines. Gentlemen of probity and rank, accused on the most malicious informations, were convicted without legal evidence, on a strained interpretation of obsolete laws; and were compelled to redeem their fortunes and their lives from some worthless minion or minister of state. Of this iniquitous traffic of justice, some idea may be formed from the example of a gentleman, who had refused, when solicited, to contribute a small sum for the support of Argyle. When the court of session was consulted on this unknown crime, Perth the chancellor, and the fifteen judges, delivered an opinion, that as Argyle, in the first instance, was a traitor, it was treason, in the second instance, to contribute money to his support; to solicit contributions, in the third instance, was equally treasonable; and in the fourth instance, notwithstanding the refusal to contribute, it was treason to conceal such a treasonable demand. On this infamous, but unanimous opinion of the court of session, Porterfield was condemned to death by the justiciary court; and was obliged to compound with his judge lord Melfort, the chancellor's brother, for his estate and life. Perhaps there are few presbyterian families that were not


Porterfield's case.

59 Fount. Dec. 305. 60 Fount. Dec. i. 315.

Wodrow's Hist. Pref. 60.
Wodrow, ii. 422.


involved in proscriptions or penaltics; few of the BOOK nobility, whose ancestors were neither sufferers nor sharers in the iniquity of the times. But where the prisoners were unable to purchase, or otherwise to deserve their enlargement, the county gaols were disgorged into those of the capital; the mildest fate of whose wretched tenants, was to be transported as soldiers to Flanders, or as slaves to the plantations "1.

of fanatics.

Amidst the most rapacious extortions to which Execution the prostitution of justice was thus instrumental, the execution of fanatics was never intermitted; but the complexion of government soon assumed a more sanguinary hue. The situation of the presbyterians was truly deplorable; their clergy were ejected, silenced, and driven into exile; the gentlemen were labouring under imprisonment or exorbitant penalties; the peasants were harassed by the army, and oppressed and ruined by itinerants courts. But the fugitives, and the sect of Cameronians, were rendered mad and desperate by the severer vengeance to which they were indiscriminately devoted. The latter, under the name of the united societies of the west, had burnt the test and the act of succession, at Lanerk, and had renewed their declaration against Charles as a tyrant, and against James as a papist unworthy to reign. They were uniformly convicted on the former ensnaring questions; was Sharp's death

61 Wodrow, ii. 339.



BOOK murder? was the rising at Bothwell rebellion? is Charles the rightful king? and not unfrequently were executed within a few hours after their sentence was pronounced. The father durst not receive his son, nor the wife her husband; the country was prohibited from harbouring the fugitives, and the ports were shut against their escape by sea. When expelled from their homes, they resided in caves, among morasses and mountains, or met by stealth and by night for worship; but wherever the mountain men, as they were styled, were discovered, the hue and cry was immediately raised. They were pursued and frequently shot by the military, or were sought with more insidious diligence by the spies, the informers, and the officers of justice; and on some occasions it appears that even the sagacity of dogs was employed to track their footsteps, and to explore their lurking retreats 62.


At a secret meeting of their united societies, they prepared, in language which moves at once our compassion and horror, an admonitory declaration to their persecutors, which nothing could have suggested, and nothing can extenuate, but the deepest despair. After a temperate disavowal of the royal authority, they express their abhorrence of murder committed from a difference of judgment or of religious persuasion; but admonish their sanguinary persecutors (between whom 62 Wodrow, ii. 429-47-9.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »