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Reign of William and Mary page 4


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The Scottish commissioners were, of course, most graciously received at Whitehall, and all the Scotchmen of note in London were invited to witness the inauguration of the new king and queen'. Argyll read the words of the Scotch coronation oath, which the royal pair repeated after him, holding up their hands towards heaven. At the last clause William stopped. It was one which required him "to root out all heretics and enemies of the true worship of God." As William knew very well that "the true worship of God" there meant presbyterianism, and nothing else, and that it would bind him to extirpate every variety of dissenter, and the episcopalians into the bargain, he declared that he would never undertake to become a persecutor. The commissioners replied that they were authorised by the convention to say that neither the words of the oath nor the laws of Scotland required any such thing from him. "In that sense, then," said William, "I swear; and I desire you all, my lords and gentlemen, to witness that I do so."

In the whole of William's proceedings on accepting the crowns of the two kingdoms, he stands forward a noble object of uprightness and enlightened mind. He was firm in his determination to give to religious faith all the freedom that he could, He had been vehemently importuned by the episcopalians both in England and Scotland to continue the establishment of the episcopal church in Scotland; but, though he had no objection to it himself, he declared that nothing should induce him to coerce or oppose the desire of the majority on the subject; and, on these honourable terms - extremely honourable to William and Mary as the first monarchs who had thus liberally advocated the liberty of faith from the throne - were they become the acknowledged sovereigns of both England and Scotland. In Scotland, however, as well as Ireland, there was yet much to do before their power was altogether established.

But with the acknowledgment of William as king of Scotland he was far from having acquired a state of comfort. In both his governments his ministers and pretended friends were his continual tormentors. In England his council and his chief ministers were at daggers-drawn - every one dissatisfied with the post he occupied, jealous of the promotion of his rivals, and numbers of them in close correspondence with the court of James. In Scotland it was precisely the same; it was impossible to satisfy the ambition and the cupidity of his principal adherents. The covenanters were exasperated because the episcopalians were merely dismissed from the establishment, and were not handed over to retaliation of all the injuries they had received from them. Sir James Montgomery, who expected a much higher post, was offered that of chief justice clerk, and refused it with disdain. He immediately concerted plans of opposition, and made his attack amidst a whole host of similarly disappointed aspirants. Amongst these were two who had been in the insurrections of Monmouth and Argyll - Sir Patrick Hume and Fletcher of Saltoun, men of great ability, but of reckless and insubordinate character. A club was formed, in which these men, with Montgomery, the lords Annandale and Ross, and a whole tribe of minor malcontents, did all in their power to thwart and embarrass the government of William. The chief promotion had been conferred on the duke of Hamilton, who was made lord high commissioner; the earl of Crawford, a very indigent, but very bitter presbyterian, who before this appointment did not know where to get a dinner, was made president of parliament; Sir James Dalrymple was appointed the principal lord of session, and his son, Sir John, was restored to his office of lord advocate. Lord Melville became secretary of state, and Sir William Lockhart solicitor- general. But whilst some of these thought they ought to have had something higher or more lucrative, there were scores for whom the limited administration of Scotland afforded no situation in accordance with their own notions of their merits, and these hastened to join the opposition club.

Meantime Dundee was exerting himself in the highlands to rouse the clans in favour of king James. But this he found an arduous matter. The highlanders, at a distance from the scenes and the interests which divided both England and the lowlands of Scotland, occupied with their hunting and their own internal feuds, cared little for either king James or king William. If either, they would probably have given the preference to William, for James had more than once sent his troops after them to chastise them for their inroads into the demesnes of their Saxon fellow-subjects- Dundee himself had retired to his own estate, and offered to remain at peace if he received from William's ministers a pledge that he should not be molested. But, unfortunately for him, an emissary from James in Ireland, bearing letters - to Dundee and Balcarras, was intercepted, and immediately Balcarras was arrested, and Dundee made his escape into the highlands. There, though he could not move any of the clans by any motives of loyalty to declare for James, he contrived to effect this object through their own internal enmities. Most of them had an old and violent feud with the clan Campbell. The Argyll family had, through a long succession of years, extended its territories and its influence over the western highlands at the expense of the other clans, some of which it had nearly extirpated; and now the head of the family came back from exile in the favour of the new monarch, and all these clans, the Stuarts, the Macnaghtens, the Camerons, the Macdonalds, the Macleans, were all in alarm and expectation of a severe visitation for past offences, and for unpaid feudal dues. They were, therefore, moved from this cause to unite against William, because it was to unite against MacCallum More, the chieftain of Argyll. If William was put down Argyll was put down. Whilst Dundee was busy mustering these clans, and endeavouring to reconcile all their petty jealousies and bring them to act together, he sent earnestly to James in Ireland to dispatch to him a tolerable body of regular troops, for without them he despaired of keeping long together his half savage and unmanageable highlanders. Till then he avoided a. conflict with the troops sent by the convention under Mackay against him. It was in vain that Mackay marched from one wild district to another; the enemy still eluded him amongst the intricate fastnesses and forests of the highlands, till his troops were wearied out with climbing crags, and threading rugged defiles and morasses; and he returned to quarters in Stirling, Aberdeen, and other towns at the foot of the mountain district.

It was the opinion of lord Tarbet, who understood the statistics of the highlands well, that if William would send about five thousand pounds to enable the clans to discharge their debts to the earl of Argyll, and obtain from that chieftain an assurance that he would abstain from hostilities against them, that they would all submit at once, and leave Dundee to find support where he could. But his advice was attempted to be carried out in so absurd a manner, by choosing an agent from the clan Campbell as the mediator on the occasion, that the clans refused to treat with him, and became all the more devoted to the interests of James.

Things were in this position when in June a civil contention broke out in Athol. The marquis, unwilling to declare for either side, had retired to England, and his eldest son, lord Murray, who had married a daughter of the duke of Hamilton, and declared for king William, was opposed by the marquis's steward, who declared for king James. The steward held Blair castle, and lord Murray besieged him in it. This called out Dundee to repel Murray and support the steward, the adherent of James; and Mackay, hoping now to meet with him, put his forces in march for the place of strife. The two armies, in fact, at length came into contact in the stern pass of Killiecrankie, near Dunkeld. This was then one of the wildest and most terrible defiles in the highlands; the mountain torrent of the Garry roaring through its deep and rocky strait.

The forces of Dundee consisted of about three thousand highlanders, and a body of Irish, under an officer of the name of Cannon, amounting to about three hundred, an ill-armed and ragged rabble whom James had sent over instead of the efficient regiments for which Dundee had so earnestly prayed. On the other hand, Mackay commanded about the same number of regular troops; these were the three Scotch regiments which he had brought from Holland, a regiment of English infantry - now the thirteenth of the line - and two regiments of lowland Scots, newly raised, commanded by the lords Kenmore and Leven. He had, besides, two troops of horse, one of which was commanded by lord Belhaven.

On the morning of Saturday, the 27th of July, Mackay had just struggled through the pass of Killiecrankie, his twelve hundred baggage-horses - for no wheel-carriages could approach such a place - scarcely through, when the enemy was upon them. The men had thrown themselves down to recover from their fatigue, on an open space on the banks of the Garry, when they were called to resume their arms by the appearance of Dundee leading on his troops of wild highlanders. Cameron of Lochiel, a man of distinguished bravery and ability, was second in command, and urged Dundee to come to an engagement without the least delay. The two armies drew up, that of Mackay with the Garry on its left, that of Dundee with the stream on its right. Lord Murray and the few forces with him united with the forces of Mackay.

It was early in the afternoon when the hostile parties began to fire on each other, and the regular troops of Mackay did considerable execution on the highlanders; yet it was seven o'clock in the evening before Dundee gave the order to charge. Then the highlanders raised a wild shout, which was returned by the enemy with a cry so much less lively land determined, that Lochiel exclaimed, "We shall do it now; that is not the cry of men who are going to win. The highlanders dropped their plaids and rushed forward. They were received by a steady fire of the lowlanders; but, as these prepared to charge with the bayonet, they were so much delayed by the nature of the operation - having, according to the practice of the time, to stick the bayonets into the muzzles of their guns, instead of, as now, having them already screwed on to them - that the highlanders were down upon them before they were prepared, and cut through and through their lines. Having discharged their firearms, the Celts threw them away, and assailed the lowland troops with dirk and claymore. The whole of the Scotch regiments broke, and were scattered like leaves before a whirlwind. Balfour was killed at the head of his regiment; Mackay's brother fell whilst gallantly endeavouring to keep together his men; and Mackay himself was compelled to give way. The English horse were yet on the ground, and Mackay spurred towards them, and called on them to charge and break the onslaught of the furious highlanders on the foot; but he called in vain; spite of the brave example of Belhaven, the horse fled as fast as their steeds could carry them. There was nothing for it but for Mackay to endeavour to save himself; and, followed by only one servant, he managed to cut his way through the enemy and reach a neighbouring height.

There the scene that presented itself was astounding. His whole army had vanished except the English regiment, which kept together in perfect order, and a few of the troops of lord Leven. These had poured a murderous fire into the ranks of the highlanders, and still shot numbers of them down as in fiery rage they pursued the flying lowlanders down the ravine, where the confused mass of enemies were plunged in chaotic strife - one violent, horrid effort to escape or to kill. In this strange melee were involved the twelve hundred pack-horses, which alone effected a diversion for the fugitives, the highlanders stopping to make themselves masters of so rich a booty.

Mackay lost no time in getting the English regiment, with lord Leven and his remnant of men, and such few others as he could collect, across the Garry. That being effected he halted, and again looked back, expecting that he should be hotly pursued, but no such thing; the highlanders were, in fact, too agreeably detained by the plunder. But that supposition did not account to him for the easy manner in which such a general as Dundee allowed of his retreat, and he declared to his guards that he was sure Dundee must have fallen.

And in this opinion he was quite right. Dundee had fallen in the very commencement of the general charge. He had led it on, contrary to the advice of Lochiel, who had urged on him the necessity of not exposing himself too much. Waving his hat, and calling his soldiers to follow him, he dashed forward, when a bullet struck him below the cuirass, which was raised by his action of rising in his stirrups and waving his arm, and he fell to the ground. The tradition of the highlands is, that Dundee was believed to have made a compact with the devil, and bore a charmed life, which no ball of lead or iron could touch; that a soldier of Mackay's army, seeing him galloping unharmed amid showers of "flying balls, plucked a silver button from his own coat, and fired at him with instant effect. The fall of the general was only observed by a few of his own soldiers who were near him, and one of them caught him in his arms, when he asked, "How goes the day?" "Well for king James," said the man, "but I am sorry for your lordship." "If it be well for the king," replied Dundee, "it matters the less for me," and expired. Spite of the ferocious cruelty of this awful persecutor of the covenanters, whose name will remain an execration to the end of time, he had of late shown so much ability in mustering and keeping together his army of most unmanageable materials, and on all occasions displayed such reckless courage, that a certain romance has always hung about his name, and for a time his crimes and diabolical cruelties were almost forgotten in admiration of his gallantry and the brilliant termination of his career.

Mackay made his way over the mountains by Weem castle and castle Drummond to Stirling. On the way he overtook the fugitives from Ramsay's regiment, who had fled at the first onset. They were completely cowed and demoralised, and it was only by threatening to shoot any man that left the track that he could prevent them dispersing amongst the hills and rocks. Many of them, after all, managed to elude his vigilance, and were killed by the highlanders for their clothes. It was reported that Mackay lost two thousand men in the battle, and that five hundred were made prisoners; but, on the other hand, a great number of the highlanders fell on the field. The rest, before retreating with the booty, piled a great heap of stones on the spot where Claverhouse fell. That is still shown, and is the only monument of John Graham, viscount Dundee, for the church of Blair Athol in which he was buried has long since disappeared, and his tomb with it.

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