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Reign of George I page 8

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He sent back the vessel with letters to Bolingbroke, containing the news of his safe arrival, and the assurance that he heard the best of news. He immediately proceeded to Aberdeen, accompanied by the marquis of Tynemouth, Berwick's son, and his other little group of attendants, and thence to Fetteresso, a seat of the earl marshal, his youthful partisan. Thither Mar hastened, accompanied by the earl marshal, general Hamilton, and about thirty others of the leaders of the insurrection, to welcome him. To these zealous adherents the sight of the heir of their long line of kings, thus coming almost alone to the kingdom of his ancestors to reclaim his throne, must have been deeply affecting. There was a joyful and most cordial meeting betwixt the prince and his subjects. He thanked Mar for his faithful defence of his rights, and created him a duke on the spot. The whole company set out on the 30th for the army, and slept on the 4th of January, 1716, at Glammis Castle, the noble feudal residence of the earls of Strathmore, the last young possessor of which had just before fallen in the pretender's cause at Sheriffmuir.

On the 6th he made his public entry into Dundee, at the head of his cavalcade, the earl of Mar riding on his right hand, and the earl marshal on his left, and about three hundred gentlemen following. His reception by the people was enthusiastic, who flocked round him to kiss his hands; and to gratify this loyal desire he remained an hour in the market-place. On the 8th he arrived at Scone, and took up his residence in the ancient palace of his ancestors. There he was only two miles from the army, and having established a council, and issued six proclamations, ordered a public thanksgiving for the "miraculous providence" of his safe arrival, for prayers in the church, for the currency of foreign coin, for a meeting of the convention of estates, for all fencible men from sixteen to sixty to repair to his standard, and for his coronation on the 23rd of January, he presented himself before the army. But here the scene was changed. Instead of enthusiasm there was disappointment - disappointment on both sides. The soldiers, who expected to see a royal-looking, active-looking man, likely to encourage them and lead them on their career, beheld a tall, thin, pale, and dejected sort of person, who evidently took no great interest in them. They expected to see him come with a brilliant staff of officers, if not with an army; but he came only with some half-dozen undistinguished foreigners. They knew their own insignificant numbers, and were struck with consternation. The fields of Sheriffmuir and Preston had taught them that to succeed they must be numerous, powerful, and led on by different men from Mar, or a dull, indifferent person like this.

That the pretender should not exhibit much vivacity was no wonder. He had been assured by Mar that his army had swelled to sixteen thousand men, and had the whole north in his favour; that he had only to appear to carry everything before him. On inquiring into the force, it turned out to be so miserably small, that the only desire was to keep it out of sight. The spirits of the pretender fell, and though not destitute of ability, as is manifest by his letters remaining, he had by no means that strength of resolution demanded by such an enterprise. His despair of the undertaking was visible to every one, and, like his father, he took no pains to awaken the enthusiasm of his adherents, by conceding to them such guarantees and securities as they demanded. The tories of the Irish episcopalian church demanded the same security for their church as it had in England; but he refused it, and even the promise of support of the Anglican church was ambiguous, and by no means assuring. His blindest followers could scarcely avoid seeing that he wanted only once to be secure on the throne to commit all the bigoted follies of his father and his race. What the soldiers thought of him we have well described by one of them in a "True Account of the Proceedings at Perth by a Rebel." "His person," he says, "was tall and thin, seeming to inclining to be lean rather than to fill as he grows in years. His countenance was pale, yet he seems to be sanguine in his constitution, and has something of a vivacity in his eye that perhaps would have been more visible if he had not been under dejected circumstances, and surrounded with discouragements, which, it must be acknowledged, were sufficient to alter the complexion of his soul as well as of his body. His speech was grave, and not very clearly expressing his thoughts, nor overmuch to the purpose, but his words were few, and his behaviour and temper seemed always composed. What he was in his diversions we knew not - there was no room for such things. I must not conceal, that when we saw the man whom they called our king, we found ourselves not at all animated by his presence, and if he was disappointed in us, we were tenfold more so in him. We saw nothing in him that looked like spirit. He never appeared with cheerfulness and vigour to animate us. Our men began to despise him: some asked if he could speak. His countenance looked extremely heavy. He cared not to come abroad amongst us poor soldiers, or to see us handle our arms, or do our exercise- Some said, the circumstances he found us in dejected him. I am sure the figure he made dejected us; and had he sent us but five thousand of good troops, and never himself come amongst us, we had done other things than we have now done."

If the pretender's demeanour had a discouraging effect, his language had still greater. Instead of prognosticating happy events, he dwelt only on pictures of ruin. Instead of assuring his followers that he had the utmost confidence in them, he seemed to anticipate defection. "Let those who forget their duty," he said, in addressing his council, "and are negligent of their own good, be answerable for the worst that may happen. For me, it will be no new thing if I am unfortunate. My whole life, even from my cradle, has shown a constant series of misfortunes, and I am prepared, if it so please God, to suffer the threats of my enemies and yours."

This was not the language to rouse the spirits of men already on the verge of despair; from such lugubrious harangues nothing but disaster could follow. One of the very first measures adopted by this council, held on the 16th of January, was of a character also to alienate the Highlanders from Ins cause. It was to burn Auchterarder and all the other villages on the way to Stirling, to render more difficult the advance of Argyll against them. If the country was to be laid waste, and the inhabitants turned adrift in the midst of a terrible winter without house or means of livelihood, and that by the power they were supporting, the poor people might well ask what could the most ruthless enemy do worse? It is said that the pretender most reluctantly consented to it. Had he been a politic, not to say humane man, he would not have consented to it at all. He would rather have retired to some more inaccessible place amongst the hills, till his army was increased and capable of defending itself. But this fatal measure was only the result of a total want of management in the army. After all the time that Mar had lain at Perth, it was only now that he began to see the necessity of fortifying the town. Those measures, too, of summoning the absent clans? and bringing in arms and money, which should have been actively in process long before, were now only really beginning, and the end of such a campaign it was not difficult to foresee. Their only safety altogether arose out of the fact that Argyll himself was in no haste to molest them.

What were the motives of Argyll for his present most apparent reluctance to drive the pretender's fortunes to an extremity, do not clearly appear. It has been supposed that he was unwilling to shut himself out from all grace in case the Stuarts should again regain the throne. But this appears a very futile reason, for though the pretender was at length on the ground, nothing could be more improbable than his ultimate success. It has again been alleged that he did not wish to ruin the Highland chiefs who were engaged on the other side, lest he should lose his own signorial rights over them; but this surely could not be the cause, for in maintaining the rights of the reigning sovereign he had the best guarantee of his own. But he was well known to be open to the most selfish influences, and probably there were just now such operating, though they have not come to the light. The government, however, was so sensible of his affected delays, that they sent general Cadogan to accelerate his movements. There may be one cause still which operated with Argyll. He had applied for an enlargement of his commission, in order to treat with and pardon such of the rebels as he thought expedient, and so far from granting this, the government had not even returned his commission. This, operating on a proud and interested nature, appears the most probable cause of his sudden loss of zeal. The coming of Cadogan to assume, as it were, a dictatorial power, might greatly strengthen this feeling of dissatisfaction. At all events, he appeared only the more averse to action. He pleaded, in reply to Cadogan's stimulating suggestions, the extreme rigour of the season, the necessary want of shelter and provisions on the way, from the burning of the villages. He contended also that it was useless advancing without sufficient artillery, and to remove this objection, Cadogan himself hastened to Berwick, and forwarded with all diligence a sufficient train. Still the duke was in no haste to move, and greatly discouraged his men by painting the arduous nature of the service, and exaggerating the numbers of the enemy. But Cadogan would admit of no excuse, and on the 24th of January the country people were employed to clear the snow from the road, preparatory to the advance of the army.

This very first movement showed that the little army of Highlanders might have been dispersed long before; that they had continued in Perth entirely by the sufferance of Argyll. No sooner did the news of the preparations for advance reach that city, than there was no longer any intention of holding it. A council was called, which sate all night on the 28th, to decide on the necessary course of action. The prevailing opinion was that they should evacuate the town, and retreat into the Highlands, so soon as they had seen the pretender safely embarked again at Montrose. The moment that this conclusion got wind, the soldiers rushed into the streets in tumultuous crowds, surrounded the houses of the officers, and expressed their indignation. One of the officers asked them what they would have them do. "Do!" cried the Highlander; "what did you call us to arms for? - was it to run away? What did the king come hither for? - was it to see his people butchered by hangmen, and not strike one stroke for their lives? Let us die like men, and not like dogs!"

But the soldiers did not know what was well known to many of the chiefs, that there were no inconsiderable number of the chiefs who were by no means willing to stake their all in a very unequal battle, but who had been negotiating with Argyll for their coming in; and though this had failed, were prepared rather to steal off into the hills than insure their certain ruin by a battle, followed by the laying waste or the confiscation of their territories. In this difficulty another council was held, but could come to no decision, and on the approach of the army of Argyll there was nothing left for it but to retire. On the 30th of January the rebel army marched out of Perth, the Highland soldiers, some in sullen silence, others in loud curses, expressing their anger and mortification at this proceeding. The inhabitants looked in terror, and bade adieu to the troops in tears, expecting only a heavy visitation for having so long harboured them. Early the next morning they crossed the deep and rapid Tay, now, however, a sheet of solid ice, and directed their march along the Carse of Gowrie towards Dundee.

Argyll, who received the news of the retreat about four in the afternoon of that day, sent and occupied Perth by Dutch and English troops by ten o'clock the next morning. They had quitted Stirling on the 29th, and that night they encamped on the snow amid the burnt remains of the village of Auchterarder. Argyll and Cadogan followed the advanced guard and entered Perth on the evening of the 1st of February; but the remainder of the troops did not arrive till late at night, owing to the state of the roads and the weather. Some few of the rebels, who had got drunk and were left behind, were secured. The next day Argyll and Cadogan, with eight hundred light foot and six squadrons of dragoons, followed along the Carse of Gowrie to Dundee. Cadogan, in a letter to Marlborough, complained of the evident reluctance of Argyll to press on the rebels. "The duke of Argyll," he says, "grows so intolerably uneasy, that it is almost impossible to live with him any longer. He is enraged at the success of this expedition, though he and his creatures attribute to themselves the honour of it. When I brought him the news of the rebels being run from Perth, he seemed thunderstruck, and was so visibly concerned at it, that even the foreign officers that were in the room took notice of it. . . . . . Since the rebels quitting Perth, he has sent for five hundred or six hundred of his Argyllshire men, who go before the army a day's march to take possession of the towns the enemy have abandoned, and to plunder and destroy the country, which enrages our soldiers, who are forbid, under pain of death, to take the value of a farthing, though out of the rebels' houses. Not one of these Argyll men appeared whilst the rebels were in Perth, and when they might, have been of some use."

It would appear plain enough here that Argyll's motives j were jealousy of the honours Cadogan was acquiring by the success of the expedition which he had compelled the duke to make, and every part of which was a proof of his previous neglect or something worse. His plundering the country is by no means in keeping with the plea that he acted so as to spare the Highlanders; and yet the subsequent events of 1717 and 1718 showed that he was not averse to listening to proposals from the pretender. When he arrived at Dundee on the 3rd, the rebel army was already gone. He and Cadogan then separated, taking different routes towards Montrose. Cadogan, whose heart was in the business, pushed on a-head, and on the 5th at noon reached Arbroath, where he received the news that the pretender had embarked at Montrose and gone to France. For some time it was said that he had turned a deaf ear to the advice of his officers, to secure his person by his escape to sea; but when it was at length determined on, every measure was taken to prevent the soldiers coming to a knowledge of it. He gave orders for the army to be ready about eight at night to march towards Aberdeen, where he assured them they would find a considerable force just landed from the continent to join them. Every rumour of his intended flight was positively denied. His horses were brought to the door of his lodgings: a guard of honour paraded there as usual. All suspicion was thus lulled. The soldiers were satisfied that he was going to accompany them in their march to Aberdeen, when it became known that he had privately slipped out at a back door, proceeded to Mar's lodgings, and thence, by a bye way, to the water-side, where he embarked with Mar, the earl of Melfort, lord Drummond, lieutenant-general Sheldon, and ten other gentlemen, on board a small French vessel, the "Maria Theresa," of St. Malo, and put to sea. In this manner did the descendant of a race of kings and the claimant of the crown of Great Britain sneak away and leave his unhappy followers to a sense of his perfidious and cruel desertion. His flight, no doubt, was necessary, but the manner of it was at once most humiliating and unfeeling. The consternation and wrath of the army on the discovery were indescribable.

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