Abbildungen der Seite

sovereign himself. The charge of duplicity has been very generally admitted against them by historians, and among the rest by Dr. Cook, who usually stands forth as their defender; but as it appears to us with glaring injustice, for in the preamble to the bond, after reciting the different occasions on which this Confession had been signed, they proceed to say, 'and now subscribed 'by us noblemen, barons, gentlemen, burgesses, ministers, and commons under subscribing, together with our resolutions and 'promises, for the causes after specified, to maintain the said true 'religion, and the King's Majesty according to the Confession 'aforesaid and Acts of Parliament.'t Nothing appears to us more certain than that by the words we have printed in italics, the editors of the Covenant intended to intimate that the document, as issued by them, contained something new-something both in the shape of resolution and of complaint, which did not pertain to the document as formerly signed. As to the charge of rebellion, it is to be observed, in the first place, that it is by no means clear that the clause in question was intended to pledge those who signed it to take up arms against the king. The phrase 'all 'sorts of persons whatsoever,' is certainly sufficiently general; but when it is remembered, that both in the preamble and in the body of the document it is distinctly affirmed, that the objects for which the mutual bond was given were conjointly the maintenance of true religion, and of the King's Majesty,' it seems but fair to conclude that it was not intended that the sovereign should be included amongst the number of those against whom the subscribers pledged themselves to defend each other. But, further, even supposing that resistance to the sovereign was distinctly contemplated on the part of those who issued this document, of what crime were the leaders of the Scottish nation guilty in so acting, under the circumstances in which their country was at that time placed? The principle on which Dr. Cook rests their defence is one which no man in the present day surely will venture to question, viz., that when the ends for which all government should be instituted are defeated, the oppressed have a clear right to disregard customary forms, and to assert the 'privileges without which they would be condemned to the degradation and wretchedness of despotism.' To this Mr. Napier has nothing to oppose but his old assertion that the Covenanters were a mere restless and unprincipled faction. But if they were only a faction, where, we ask, was the nation? The statements


[ocr errors]

History of the Church of Scotland, ii. 416.

† See the whole document in Peterkin's Records of the Kirk of Scotland (p. 9), a work now in course of publication, and which promises to be of great use to the student of Scottish Ecclesiastical History.

Vol. ii. p. 415.

of Mr. Napier's own book amply confute his assertion; witness the account he has given of the rapturous and universal signing of the Covenant, from the MSS. of the Episcopal parson of Rotheimay, vol. i. pp. 151–157. That a document which was subscribed by nearly all the inhabitants of the metropolis, 'every 'one contesting who might be first;' which all the nobility, gentry, and clergy who were present at Edinburgh at the time it was issued, subscribed and swore to; which, as it passed through the country, was signed by myriads, of whom many 'subscribed with tears on their cheeks,' while others did draw 'their own blood, and used it in place of ink to underwrite their 'names; and to speak for which was on the part of a clergyman such a passport to popularity, that no church could contain his 'hearers,' and some kept their seats from Friday till Sunday to 'get the communion given them sitting;'-that such a document should speak the language of a mere faction with whom the nation at large had no sympathy, is an assertion which nothing but the blindest spirit of faction could tempt any man to hazard. If ever a nation were unanimous in the adoption of any measure for the purpose of securing from its governors those immunities of which no ruler is entitled to deprive his subjects, it was the Scottish nation at the period referred to; and in such a case had the leaders of the Covenanters even formally proposed to levy war upon the sovereign in case of his attempting to break their league or frustrate their just designs, they had done nothing inconsistent with those relations which subsist in every free state between the ruler and his subjects. We are still, however, of opinion, that no such step was so much as contemplated by the Covenanters at the time when their bond was drawn up. The enemies against whom they sought to protect at once their own rights and those of the throne, were the bishops and the pope, and it was not until they saw Charles madly bent upon identifying himself with these, that they felt constrained to appear in arms against him. The grand object of their enterprise was the protection of their civil and religious immunities; their war with their sovereign was a mere accident arising out of his pertinacious defence of measures by which these were endangered. The Covenanters were not republicans; they had no sympathy whatever with the anti-monarchical party in England; they were, on the contrary, enthusiastically attached to the monarchical form of government, as subsequent events prove; and if in struggling for their rights, circumstances threw them into collision with their sovereign, their maintenance of such a conflict can be traced only to their preference of principles to persons, and their anxiety to support the real interests of the throne, even at the expense of the most cherished prejudices of the individual by whom it was occupied.

The covenant was, for the first time, sworn at Edinburgh, on the 28th of February, 1638, in the presence of an immense concourse of people of all ranks, and both sexes. 'It was the day,' says Henderson, of the Lord's power, wherein we saw his people 'most willingly offer themselves in multitudes to the service 'of heaven, like the dew-drops of the morning; this was, indeed, 'the great day of Israel, wherein the arm of the Lord was re'vealed; the day of the Redeemer's strength on which the princes 'of the people assembled to swear their allegiance to the King of 'kings. From that day forward, for the space of half a century, this document became the banner round which the greater part of the Scottish nation rallied in their struggles for those rights which they deemed better than life; and it was only when these rights were secured at the Revolution, that it ceased to be unfurled, and was placed in that venerable repository where it now rests as the most precious among the cherished Kunda of the Scottish Kirk. For some months after its promulgation, both parties were actively occupied in furthering their respective interests: the Covenanters in rousing the country, and the king in endeavouring to overreach and out-manoeuvre them by pretended schemes of concession and compromise. So well, however, were the plans of the former laid and executed, that Charles was ultimately constrained, in real earnest, to give in to the wishes of the nation, so far, at least, as to issue, on the 15th of August, two edicts; the one summoning a general assembly of the kirk, to be held at Glasgow in the following November, and the other summoning a Parliament to be held at Edinburgh, in May of the subsequent year; at the same time discharging the use of the 'Service Book, Books of Canons, High Commission, and Articles ' of the Perth Assembly; ordaining free entry to ministers; and 'subjecting the Bishops to the jurisdiction of the General As'sembly.' Unfortunately, this concession, like all concessions made too late and reluctantly to the claims of justice, served only to confirm the people of Scotland in a conviction of their own power, without removing any of that unfavorable feeling with which they had begun to regard the king. The remark of Baillie upon the subject is as just as it is pithy: It has been the king's perpetual fault to grant his people's desires by bits, and so late he ever lost his thanks.'

The Assembly thus convened was the famous Assembly of 1638, to which the Scottish Kirk looks back as the æra of its second and better reformation, and which certain zealots in that body

• Aiton's Life and Times of Henderson, p. 257.
+ Peterkin's Records, p. 14.

have been recently commemorating with a fervour and a fury which have astounded many and grieved more of the pious inhabitants of these realms. We very much question if all this enthusiastic admiration be justly due to the proceedings of this memorable convention. It was, to say the least of it, a very disorderly meeting, and bore a resemblance to any thing rather than to a body of Christian men met to deliberate upon the affairs of Christ's church. So violent and unconstitutional were their proceedings, that the Duke of Hamilton, who occupied the place of Royal Commissioner in the Assembly, was constrained, on the ninth day of their session, to command them to dissolve their meeting; and, on their refusing obedience, he vacated his seat, and left the place. This rendered any further proceedings on their part illegal; but disregarding all consequences, they continued to sit till the 20th of December, when they dissolved, after asserting their right to meet again, independently of the royal permission. Subsequently to the departure of the Commissioner, the covenanting party carried every thing their own way, with hardly any opposition. The spirit in which they acted was of the most intolerant character. Every person who was known to be in any way unfavorable to Presbyterian Church Polity, or to Calvinistic doctrine, was deposed from office and excommunicated; whilst on the heads of the obnoxious bishops the full weight of the Assembly's wrath was thrown. In judging, however, of the conduct of the dominant party in this Assembly, it must not be forgotten, that they had much to exasperate them; that they met under all the excitement consequent upon having wrested what they deemed a sacred privilege from an unwilling monarch; that the evils characterizing their proceedings are incident, in a greater or less degree, to all conventions of a politico-ecclesiastical character; and that they lived at a time when, however zealous men might be for the freedom of their own consciences, and the integrity of their own communion, the idea of granting toleration to others was not only not entertained, but was strenuously repudiated as sinful by almost every religious sect. Let it also be borne in mind, that though many of their proceedings were such as we cannot but condemn, the noble stand which they made on this occasion for their principles, not only prevented the land from being overrun with popery and priestcraft; but, at the same time, sowed in the public mind the seeds of truths which have grown up into a rich harvest of civil and religious privilege, and from which a still more glorious increase may be expected in the ultimate emancipation of the church from all those degrading fetters with which her connexion with the state has bound her.

At this Assembly, Montrose, who from the first promulgation of the Covenant had been actively engaged in furthering the

cause of which it was the symbol, took a prominent part in the proceedings, but with a bluntness and openness that belonged rather to the camp than to the senate, and which, subsequently, drew from Baillie the naïve complaint, that they found his more than ordinary and evil pride, very hard to be guided.' He was, notwithstanding, entrusted with the conduct of the military operations, which the Covenanters found it necessary to commence against Huntly, who had been appointed Royal Lieutenant for the North of Scotland, and who, with other chiefs in that quarter, had commenced operations with much vigour. In this campaign, partly through the skill and activity of Montrose; partly, also, through neglect, if not treachery on the part of Hamilton, who had engaged to furnish the supplies necessary for enabling Huntly to maintain the conflict, the arms of the Covenanters were every where victorious; so that, by the middle of 1639, the whole country may be said to have been in their hands. The treaty of Berwick, in June of that year, put a temporary stop to these warlike proceedings, and finally terminated Montrose's connexion with the Covenanting army.

The change of sides which Montrose made soon after this event, has drawn down upon him the deep censure of the Presbyterian historians, and has affixed the degrading title of deserter to his name. The facts connected with this step have been investigated by Mr. Napier with anxious care; and, we are bound to say, that the result, as exhibited in the pages of his work, has been to place the conduct of Montrose in a light which, if it does not exhibit him as altogether immaculate, at least shows that he was actuated by much higher principles on this occasion than those hitherto ascribed to him. The ordinary hypothesis on this subject is, that when Montrose met the king at Berwick, on the occasion of Charles's summoning, a few days after the treaty had been struck, fourteen of the Covenanting leaders to his court, to arrange his progress to Scotland, where he meant to hold an Assembly and Parliament in person--a summons which only Montrose, Rothes, and Lothian thought fit to obey;-the king, repenting of his former discourteousness, and convinced of the importance of securing, for his own side, the services of so able a soldier as Montrose, restored to that nobleman his royal favor; and so, as Mr. Brodie expresses it, 'seduced him from his party and prin'ciples.' To this cheap and gratuitous hypothesis Mr. Napier opposes one which, besides being much more in keeping with Montrose's previous career and known character, has the immense advantage of being supported by irrefragable documentary evidence. It is this: that Montrose had for some time been disgusted with the violent proceedings of the Covenanters; that he had, moreover, found that their leaders were aiming at measures, to which he never had given, and never could give, his consent;

« ZurückWeiter »