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'John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount of Dundee, in the year 1682, with his troop pursued William Graham, in the parish of
(sic) in Galloway, making his escape from his mother's house, and overtaking him, instantly shot him dead. Item the said Claverhouse, together with the Earl of Dumbarton, and Lieut. General Douglas, caused Peter Gillies, John Bryce, Thomas Young, who was taken by the Laird of Lee, William Fiddeson, and John Binening, to be put to death upon a gibbet without legal trial or sentence, suffering them neither to have a Bible nor to pray before they died, at Manchline, 1684. Item the said Claverhouse, coming to Galloway, in answer to the Viscount of Kennuire's letter, with a small party, surprised Robert Stewart, John Grier, Robert Ferguson, and James M Michael, and instantly shot them dead at the water of Dee, in Galloway, December, 1683; their corpses being buried, were at his command raised again. Item the said Claverhouse, in May 1685, apprehended John Brown in Priesthill, in the parish of Muirkirk, in the shire of Ayr, being at his work about his own house, and shot him dead before his own door, in presence of his wife. Item the said Claverhouse authorised his troop to kill Matthew Meiklewrath without any examination, in the parish of Colmonell, in Carrick, anno 1685.'
Truly a goodly list of what Mr. Paget calls military executions. If accusation only were necessary to convict Claverhouse, we have it here with an intensity which is undeniable, and we have it published in the clearest terms within two years of the Revolution. What becomes of Mr. Paget and the interval of thirty-seven years? It is something more than can be pardoned to Mr. Paget, that, knowing that this was published in 1690, he should try to persuade the public that the story had never been heard of until 1722. Professor Aytoun is more candid; he says, the details were not known until 1722, and he refers his readers, though in scanty phrase enough, to what he calls a short notice in the Cloud of Witnesses,' published in 1714, and even this Mr. Paget conceals from his readers.
But this is not all; the Memorial referred to in the Cloud ' of Witnesses,' is not the only notice of this most atrocious murder which is to be found in the course of the 17th century. To a work entitled An Answer to Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence,' published in 1693, there is appended "A list of "those murdered in cold blood, without trial, conviction, or any "colour of law," and this list contains the following entry: May 1685, he shot John Brown of Priesthill, in the parish of Muirkirk, in the shire of Ayr, as at his work before his door, in presence of his wife. When Mr. Paget, therefore, has the modesty to insist that Mr. Macaulay was bound to correct his history because immediately on its appearance he was better
instructed by Professor Aytoun, the reply seems only too sufficient that Professor Aytoun was entirely wrong. But we take the liberty of suggesting that Mr. Paget's own principles ought to have induced him to refrain from publishing his criticisms, because these things which we have now pointed out were pointed out immediately on the appearance of Professor Aytoun's strictures. We verily believe that Mr. Paget is innocent of the slightest acquaintance with the fact; but if he turns to the pages of the North British Review' for May 1850, he will find there the circumstances we have now stated most clearly and conclusively explained; and it is upon such flimsy and inaccurate research as Mr. Paget has plainly given to this matter, that he ventures to launch his criticisms against the broad buckler of Macaulay.
When Professor Aytoun wrote, all he could say was, that Wodrow in 1722, quoted no written authority for his statement, and that he could only have received it by vague tradition; and so Mr. Paget also most rashly asserts. But Wodrow himself observes, not that he had it from vague tradition, but that he had heard his account of John Brown's character from people of 'sense and credit, yet alive, who knew it.' Mr. Paget professes to quote Wodrow's account of the story, but is at pains to exclude this statement, which he deliberately omits in his quotation. Now why a man writing in 1722 should be disbelieved because he states on the authority of persons then alive, of sense and credit, a circumstance which took place in 1685, it is difficult to understand. We presume that George Canning might, in 1822, have told, on the authority of Pitt or Dundas or Sir Robert Adair, the history of the struggles on the Regency in 1789, or the contests of the Coalition in 1783. No authority could be better; and excepting the variance between the account of Wodrow and of Walker as to who fired the shot, there was no reason whatever to disbelieve the account which Wodrow gave.
But these zealous defenders of Claverhouse go further. Professor Aytoun says, and Mr. Paget repeats, that Brown had been out at Bothwell Brigg, and that his name was contained in a proclamation of the Privy Council against the rebels as having fled from justice. Professor Aytoun represented the list appended to this proclamation, as containing the name of John Brown among those who were in arms at Bothwell Brigg. The mistake was pointed out at the time, and Mr. Paget, although he quotes the true terms of the list in a note, repeats the error in the text. The name of John Brown does occur in the list appended to the proclamation, but the mode in
which it was entered, shows plainly that he was not fugitated, or declared rebel for having been at Bothwell Brigg. The list contains two classes. One, those who had been in arms at Bothwell Brigg; the other, those who had not been there, but had harboured or resetted rebels. Reset is the term in Scottish law for harbouring or receiving. The entry as regards John Brown is, Muirkirk John Brown, Priestfield, for reset;' that is to say, the man had done nothing against the government, but harboured, or at least was accused of harbouring, some unhappy fugitive from the tyranny of Lauderdale. Mr. Paget is careful not to explain to his readers the meaning of the words for reset.' He probably did not know what reset meant; but if he did, he surely is not the censor morum who is to rise up in the judgment-seat and rebuke the inaccuracies of Macaulay.
Professor Aytoun says, in his zeal, that Claverhouse was not present at the execution at all. Mr. Paget says that it was only the execution of a traitor who had been in arms at Bothwell Brigg; and he says that Mr. Macaulay was bound at once to have taken Professor Aytoun's word for the whole narrative. But in 1860, long after that part of Macaulay's history was published, and long after Professor Aytoun's lucubrations, a letter comes to light under Claverhouse's own hand, which Mr. Mark Napier found among the Queensberry papers, and which Mr. Paget himself prints. Lord Macaulay of course knew nothing of it, and it can therefore be no ground of imputation against him that he did not quote it. Now this letter, which we give as Mr. Paget gives it, substantially proves that Wodrow's account was right, or at least proves that Professor Aytoun's account, which it seems must be accepted as veritable history, was utterly wrong. It proves that Claverhouse was present at the execution. It does not negative the statement that he shot the man with his own hand. It proves that John Brown was in the peat moss where Wodrow says he was at his work; it proves that he was unarmed, and it proves that he was not shot because he was a rebel under the proclamation. And now for the letter:
'May it please your Grace,
'On Friday last, among the hills betwixt Douglas and the Ploughlands, we pursued two fellows a great way through the mosses, and in the end seized them. They had no arms about them, and denied they had any. But being asked if they would take the abjuration, the eldest of the two, called John Brown, refused it; nor would he swear not to rise in arms against the king, but said he knew no king. Upon which, and there being found bullets and match in his house,
and treasonable papers, I caused shoot him dead; which he suffered very unconcernedly. The other, a young fellow, and his nephew, called John Brownen, offered to take the oath; but would not swear that he had not been at Newmills in arms, at rescuing the prisoners. So I did not know what to do with him; I was convinced that he was guilty, but saw not how to proceed against him. Wherefore, after he had said his prayers, and carabines presented to shoot him, I offered to him that if he would make an ingenuous confession, and make a discovery that might be of any importance for the king's service, I should delay putting him to death, and plead for him. Upon which he confessed that he was at that attack of Newmills, and that he had come straight to this house of his uncle's on Sunday morning. In the time he was making this confession the soldiers found out a house on the hill, underground, that could hold a dozen of men, and there were swords and pistols in it; and this fellow declared that they belonged to his uncle, and that he had lurked in that place ever since Bothwell, where he was in arms. He confessed that he had a halbert, and told who gave it him about a month ago, and we have the fellow prisoner.
I have acquitted myself when I have told your Grace the case. He has been but a month or two with his halbert; and if your Grace thinks he deserves no mercy, justice will pass on him; for I, having no commission of justiciary myself, have delivered him up to the Lieutenant-General to be disposed of as he pleases.
'I am, my Lord, your Grace's most humble servant,
What do our readers think of this? This is the statement of Claverhouse himself. The answer of John Brown he took care we should never hear. He admits that he found the man not engaged in any unlawful occupation, and, so far as he states, not accused of any previous crime, that he took him to his own door, and there, on the ground that he refused to take the oath of abjuration, and that some bullets and matches, and what he calls treasonable papers, were found in the house, shoots him, or caused shoot him,' dead. Mr. Paget dignifies this horrible act by the name of a military execution. The treasonable papers were probably letters from some fugitive friend. That he had bullets and matches in the house was, in the view of Claverhouse, a sufficient excuse for blowing the man's brains out. And this is the state of things which Mr. Paget thinks Macaulay is wrong in describing, as one of the acts by which the peasantry of the western lowlands were goaded into madness; and it is of the chief actor in such scenes that he is not to be allowed to say that he has left a name which, wherever the Scottish race is settled on the face of the globe, is mentioned with a peculiar energy of hatred. Anything more coolly, atrocious than the act as described by Claverhouse
himself, it is impossible to conceive. Even if the pretences of Claverhouse had been true, the concealed house under the hill, and the alleged confession of the nephew, which rest entirely on the uncorroborated assertion of the perpetrator, were only known when the man was dead. But we quit this subject with a feeling of unfeigned regret, that men of education and sense should be found to palliate crimes which have never been surpassed in any war, however sanguinary, or under any government however tyrannical.
Our readers have probably had enough of Mr. Paget. A very little research, and a very little modesty, would have saved him from the discredit of so careless and so self-sufficient a performance. His failures have only served to show that although Lord Macaulay may not in all instances have sufficiently subdued his colouring, he is far more accurate than his reviewer.
We turn, however, from this somewhat irksome task, to the volume which is now before us.
The curtain rises on the third act at the commencement of this volume. The war is over. The people, impatient of its burdens, were weary of it; it had been waged with scanty laurels, and had been closed with a not too favourable peace. It had, however, produced its effect. William had compelled the permanent recognition of his own title, and had taught the French King, by the exhaustion consequent on the hostilities, that war had dangers not confined to fields of battle, and peace benefits which it was folly to sacrifice.
The nation of England at that time was slow to perceive, what is now transparently clear, how deep and vital an interest their liberties had in this continental struggle. Probably the constitutional rule of William of Orange at home, and his dexterous management of political parties in very difficult times, were of less moment to English freedom than those long, weary, and sometimes disastrous operations which he so obstinately carried on in the Low Countries against France. Intervention in those days meant self-preservation. If the people of England had been united, they might probably have looked on with indifference and with safety, while France extended her boundary beyond the Rhine and the Pyrenees, or even united the Spanish Crown with her own. But the power of France meant also the return of the Stuarts; and that return was hoped and prayed for by an ardent although small minority of the laity, and by the majority of the clergy, and contemplated with apathy by some, and with a certain amount of interest by others of the political leaders. Just as the supremacy of Spain a century before,