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THE IMPATIENT SUPPLICANTS-THEIR LOYALTY TO THE KING AND
QUARREL WITH THE COUNCIL-QUESTION OF THE BISHOPS IN THE COUNCIL-THE PROTESTATION-CONSTITUTIONAL INFLUENCE ATTRIBUTED TO THAT PROCESS-PROCLAMATIONS AND PROTESTATIONS --THE SCENE AT STIRLING-THE RACE BETWEEN PROCLAIMERS AND PROTESTERS--THE COVENANT-ITS DESIGN AND COMMENCEMENTGREYFRIARS' CHURCHYARD-INFLUENCES FOR THE PROPAGATION OF THE COVENANT-HAMILTON AS HIGH COMMISSIONER-SYMPATHIES
THE ENGLISH OPPOSITION-QUESTION OF SECRET INTERCOURSE ---THE ASSURANCE, AND ITS FATE-THE POLICY OF THE COURTLAUD-GENERAL STATE OF SCOTLAND-POWER OF THE NORTH-THE GORDON INFLUENCE-METHOD OF FEUDAL AGGRANDISEMENT-THE GORDONS AND CRICHTONS — TRAGEDY OF THE BURNING OF FRENDRAUGHT-INFLUENCE ON THE DISPOSAL OF PARTY FORCES.
I HAVE thought it right to indicate with a cautious minuteness, which may be counted tedious, such traces as appeared to reveal whatever inner agency—social, political, or religious-may account for the events occurring up to this point. The unconspicuous and silent growth of the powers destined to come into contest in great convulsions are the most important, yet the least obtainable, portion of the history of any notable epoch in the history of a large community-and the community involved in the Scots movements of the day was a large one, for it was the whole of the British empire. The forces that were to come in conflict may now be considered as embodied against each other, and coming forth in the face of day with all the world a witness of their contest. Hereafter, then, the same minuteness of detail may not be necessary.
From the preparations behind the scenes we pass to the front of the historical stage, and see the events of the drama following each other in rapid succession, and with a visible chain of connection needing little explanation.
As Edinburgh was no longer to be the seat of Government, the Council met at Linlithgow early in December. Thence, by instruction from the king, a proclamation was issued. It was still in the tone of offended royalty and stern rebuke, intimating that the riotous conduct of his subjects had influenced him to postpone the gracious answer he might have made to his subjects' supplications. He would in the mean time, however, appease their vain terrors by a solemn assurance of his abhorrence of Popery.1 This did not satisfy the Supplicants, and they speedily showed that nothing would satisfy them short of a distinct revocation of all the offensive steps taken by the Crown. The Council adjourned to Dalkeith, and thither the Supplicants carried the war of words. They not only poured in additional supplications, but they were enabled to vary the mode of attack by putting their demands into a new form, suggested by the ingenuity of their lawyers. It was called a Protestation, and sharpened the tone of the demand by imparting to it a slight but distinct tone of menace. It was an official and formal assertion, that if their humble supplications were neglected or repelled, those to whom they have appealed in vain must be responsible for the consequences that may follow.
They went farther still. The “ Tables or commissioners” insisted, as a representative body, in orally debating the whole matter at the council-board. The scene was rendered grotesque by the irresistible pertinacity of the commissioners, and the vain efforts of the Council to shake them off. When they presented themselves — twelve out of the sixteen — the clerk of the Council, Primrose, came forth to receive their papers or “ bill.” They refused to part with it, “ because they were there to present it themselves, and had something to speak for farther clearing of their minds. The Council
i Rushworth, ii. 408.
sent out their clerk again, and desired the noblemen to present their bill, the barons theirs, and so forth every one of them severally. This the commissioners refused, because they were directed to present one for all. The clerk was sent forth the third time, and desired that seven or eight of them might come in and present their bill without distinction of what Estate they were. They answered they were already few enough, being but twelve, and were appointed by the commissioners who represented the body of the Supplicants of every Estate.” The Council desired to check this assumption of representative power, and sent some of their members to rebuke the commissioners. But the commissioners seem to have had the better of their opponents in a debate at the door of the council-room. The councillors who had come forth offered to receive the document which the commissioners had brought with them; but this “was refused, because they had orders to present it to the Council, and not to the councillors, and had something to speak for farther declaring of their minds which required a judicial representing of it."
Certain members of the Council endeavoured, in personal conference with the commissioners, to get the tone of their appeal softened, but in vain. The commissioners had no powers to depart from their instructions. We are then told how “the Lords of Council raise abruptly, and departed by another door than where the commissioners were waiting.” To obviate such an evasion at the next meeting of Council, the representatives of the Supplicants blockaded both the doors.i
It was part of the political creed of the Supplicants that the bishops were not lawful members of the Council. Presuming even that they could legally sit at the councilboard, they were specially disqualified from dealing with the case of the Supplicants. By a time-honoured rule of the law of Scotland, if a judge has any personal interest in a case coming into the court to which he belongs, any litigant in the case may disown his jurisdiction by a “ de
1 Rothes's Relation, 37, 38.
clinator.” The Supplicants maintained that the bishops were parties to their suit before the Council-guilty parties, as the prime movers of all the mischief that had been wrought. Among the multifarious documents offered by them to the Council was a Declinator, drawn up in very bitter terms, denouncing the right of the bishops to act as members of Council in the question of the supplications. In permanent antithesis to this opinion, the king always began his messages to the Council with the style “Right Reverend,” counting the Archbishop of St Andrews as the head of that body. This dispute brought a separate element of complexity into the curious game between the Council and the commissioners from the Tables. In the end, to dispense with the presence of the bishops was deemed a wiser course than by their presence to provoke the commissioners to table their declinator. And we are told that the Bishop of the Isles, being the only one present when they appeared, was induced to withdraw. At the audience which they at last obtained, their leader for the time, Lord Loudon, uttered a long oration, recapitulating all the grievances that had become the objects of dispute ; and the Council undertook to lay the whole matter before the king.
Throughout the materials for this narrative there is an element of uncertainty about the conduct and intentions of the lay members of the Council. There were many conferences aside between members of the Council and representatives of the Tables. The tone of the councillors was rather in the direction of caution than of defiance or rebuke. Lord Roxburgh exhorted them not to provoke the king to extremities, and as he “ did flee out in many great oaths,” Henderson the clergyman " did reprove him for his oft swearing.” Traquair, the treasurer, gave assurance that in the end the Service-book would be withdrawn, and all concerned in opposition to it should receive indemnity. But in the mean time there must be a form of submission to the king—and he sketched a scene of Oriental humiliation : “That he would have the keys of
the town and charter of their liberties delivered to the king; and six commissioners from the town publicly prostrate themselves before the king as he was going to the chapel at Whitehall two several days; and upon the third day, upon the Scots councillors that were at Court, their prostrating themselves with the commissioners before the king, the king would redeliver their keys and charter of their liberties, and pardon them.”] They were so far from any such penitent intention, that they declared all their acts to be justified by the legal opinion of eminent counsel, who, on a case laid before them, had advised them that they might bring actions at law against the authors of the innovations, and against any persons who should venture to charge the impugners of these innovations with sedition. Some tedious remonstrances to induce them to modify the terms of their documents were entirely wasted. They felt their strength, and were determined to take their own way to the utmost. As it was clear that a great crisis was at hand, Traquair, the treasurer, went up to London to discuss with the king the policy to be adopted.
So matters stood in the beginning of 1638. January had passed, and February was passing. The Supplicants became impatient, saying they had now waited more than half a year for an answer to their reasonable appeal. Traquair had returned, but kept an obdurate silence. At length it came out that a proclamation was to be made at Stirling, where the Council would assemble. The tenor of this proclamation was well known to the Supplicants. It was too nearly in the tone of the advice which Traquair had given. The king exonerated the bishops, and took the burden of all on himself. He called on his loyal subjects to comply with his orders about the Service-book. They would be pardoned for the past; but if they continued to offend him by meetings or other undutiful acts, they should be punished as traitors. The commissioners of the Tables prepared a counter-protestation, and summoned their constituents to assemble in force at Stirling,