The Cameronian Rebellion
From 'A History of the British Nation' by AD Innes, 1912
The Pentland uprising
The hostility of the Galloway Covenanters, already displayed by the process of "rabbling" ministers who had taken the places of those who had given up their manses, came to a head in the Pentland rising at the end of 1666. Fallowing on a scuffle with the soldiery engaged in breaking up conventicles, a band of insurgents assembled in arms.
Thomas Dalziel, a brutal veteran whose service in Russia had taught him an exceptional savagery, was placed in command, of the government troops. The insurgents marched to Edinburgh under, the delusion that the capital would side with them. They had hardly discovered their mistake when they were caught and routed by Dalziel at the fight of Rullion Green.
The Pentland rising was followed by a sharp persecution directed against those who were supposed to have fostered the rebellion. Torture — the boot and the thumbscrew — was freely used, though with little success, as a means at extracting information; and some scores of offenders were put to death. These things had taken place in the absence of Lauderdale. He had personally taken the line of rather discouraging persecution, and allowing the odium of that policy to be borne by his colleague and rival Lord Rothes and Archbishop Sharp.
Lauderdale in charge
The practical outcome was that Lauderdale now became supreme. He at once procured from a subservient parliament an Act definitely establishing the ecclesiastical supremacy of the Crown, a measure little to the liking of the bishops, and still more objectionable to the Presbyterians with their doctrine of spiritual independence. But the Act also affirmed that the entire administrative control was a prerogative of the Crown; and with this instrument in his hands Lauderdale set himself to a still harsher penal legislation enforced by an increasing standing army virtually controlled by himself.
Disaffection developed along with the severity of the government, especially when it was demanded that the landholders should bind themselves, together with their families, servants, and tenants, not to attend conventicles or to harbour unlicensed preachers. To suppress the disaffection an army of ten thousand men, mainly from the Highlands, was quartered upon the disturbed districts, where the "Highland host" treated the population very much as conquering troops were wont to treat a hostile country in seventeenth-century warfare.
Archbishop Sharp's murder
The results were such as might have been expected. A party of desperadoes were lying in wait for an informer on Magus Muir near St Andrews when accident threw Archbishop Sharp into their hands. They murdered him before the eyes of his daughter. Four weeks later a sympathising band of Covenanters routed at Drumclog a party of soldiers under the command of James Graham of Claverhouse, who had been actively employed by the government in the suppression of conventicles and the dispersal of open-air gatherings.
There was no organised rebellion. The victors of Drumclog were for the most part zealots, of whom a large proportion applauded the murder of Sharp, while probably every one of them would have sheltered the murderers as a matter of course. But there would have been no rebellion at all, organised or otherwise, if the population had not been goaded by the tyrannical harshness of the law and the brutalities of the troops in government employ.
The command in Scotland was placed in the hands of the Duke of Monmouth, whose role it was to seek popularity. Three weeks after Drumclog the insurgents were dispersed at the battle of Bothwell Brig, where four hundred of them were killed and more than a thousand prisoners were taken. Very few of them were put to death, but most of them were kept through the winter in wooden sheds in the Greyfriars Churchyard, where they suffered very severely. Then the majority were allowed to go home on pledging themselves to keep the peace, though some were obstinate enough to refuse the promise.
Monmouth got general credit for his leniency; but, immediately afterwards he was removed from his office, and his place was taken by the Duke of York. Practically at this stage (1680) James became the governor of Scotland instead of Lauderdale, with Dalziel in command of the troops. A steady persecution set in which found its warrant in the action of the extreme leaders of the Covenanters, Cargill and Cameron, from whom the zealots soon came to be known as "Cameronians."
The Declaration of Sanquhar
This section issued the Declaration of Sanquhar, in which all allegiance to Charles Stuart was renounced. The Cameronians in fact elected to declare themselves rebels, and such the government treated them. A rational leniency would in all probability have resulted in effective pacification; but the government chose to enforce the law with the utmost rigour, while the rebels openly declared their own intention of retaliation.
Persecution of the Covenanters - 'Bluidy Claverhouse'
The persecution of the Covenanters throughout the ensuing years is a very ugly chapter of history, luridly depicted thirty years afterwards in the narratives of Wodrow and Walker. But even here the theory of the government was that the victims were avowed rebels; and deeply as the name of Graham of Claverhouse has been execrated, no instance has ever been brought home to him in which he exceeded the positive instructions under which he was acting, or executed any one who had not refused to abjure the declaration against allegiance.
The suppression of conventicles was monstrous; the subjection of obviously harmless persons to the death penalty was monstrous; but the blame lies on the shoulders of the government, and to some extent on the zealots themselves, rather than on the officers who carried out their orders.
This article is excerpted from the book, 'A History of the British Nation', by AD Innes, published in 1912 by TC & EC Jack, London. I picked up this delightful tome at a second-hand bookstore in Calgary, Canada, some years ago. Since it is now more than 70 years since Mr Innes's death in 1938, we are able to share the complete text of this book with Britain Express readers. Some of the author's views may be controversial by modern standards, particularly his attitudes towards other cultures and races, but it is worth reading as a period piece of British attitudes at the time of writing.