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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 kelundia 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-manouvre 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 Assembly.'t 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 bad, moreover, found that their leaders were aiming at measures, to which he never had given, and never could give, his consent;
and the effect of which would have been, in his opinion, to have interfered with the legitimate prerogative of the sovereign; that intelligence had even been conveyed to him of Argyle's having mooted the dethroning of the king in Scotland, with the design, as was inferred, of ascending to his place; that, alarmed by these proceedings, he and several others of the more moderate Presbyterians, entered into a bond for the defence of the constitution, and to secure the great purposes for which they had united in signing and supporting the Covenant; that having despatched letters to the king containing advice as to the state of things in Scotland, and copies of these having been surreptitiously obtained, the Covenanting leaders seized Montrose and his friends, committed them to prison, and proceeded against them with the utmost rigor and injustice; and that, in consequence of all this, Montrose became entirely alienated from their party, and, after being released from his long imprisonment, went over, on the resumption of hostilities, to the side of the king, to which he remained attached till his death. The evidence in favor of this theory of Montrose's conduct, is stated by Mr. Napier with great fulness, and with all the skill of an advocate. He clearly shows that, for a considerable while before the treaty of Berwick, Montrose and the Covenanters had begun to discover that they were not quite of the same mind on many points necessarily involved in the enterprise in which they were engaged; that if there was not a direct intention on the part of Argyle and his friends to dethrone the king, Montrose had good reason, from what was told him, to suppose there was; that whilst his communications with the king contained nothing but sound and wholesome advice, such as it was unquestionably Montrose's privilege to offer to his Majesty, and such as no king could be the worse for receiving, the anxiety of Argyle and his party to fix a criminal accusation upon Montrose, indicates deep personal hatred, or a strong desire to get rid of a troublesome adherent; that Montrose was supported in all that he did in this matter by his former guardian, Lord Napier, whose uprightness and prudence are above all question; and that, through the whole of the proceedings connected with the vexatious course pursued against him, he maintained that open, honest, and fearless demeanor which belonged to his character, and which is utterly incompatible with the meanness and duplicity of a traitor. The evidence adduced by Mr. Napier, in support of these assertions, is such as cannot, we think, be resisted. Nor is its importance confined to the favorable aspect which it gives to the conduct of Montrose on the occasion in question; it is also valuable for the light which it throws upon the mysterious event which is designated in all histories of the period by the somewhat ominous appellation of the Plot. This plot, it turns out, was nothing more appalling
than the agreement of a few noblemen to advise their sovereign to measures of a firm but conciliatory kind, as the only policy by which the peace of bis kingdom could be preserved, and to support him against all opposition should he follow their advice. It also furnishes a solution of what has hitherto been a sort of historical problem, viz. what prompted Charles's visit to Scotland, in 1641 ? Those historians who are favorable to the king, assert with D’Israeli, that his sudden resolution to visit the northern part of his dominions, arose from a desire to relieve his mind from the burden under which, after the execution of Strafford, and in consequence of his personal distresses, and the confusion in his councils, it was oppressed; while those who are opposed to him incline to the theory of Brodie, who tells us that his journey was a dark project to strengthen an unprincipled violent faction
in Scotland. The real cause, however, it now appears from the evidence adduced by Mr. Napier, was a letter from Lord Napier to the king, in which that nobleman urged the immediate presence of his Majesty in Scotland as the only remedy for that "mighty distemper' with which his “antient and native kingdom
of Scotland' was at that time, in Napier's opinion, infected. This is confirmed by the circumstance that Argyle and his party joined with the Commons of England in putting every obstacle in the way of the king's intention; and, by the fact, that the policy pursued by Charles, during this visit, was exactly such as the letter of Napier recommends.
The king arrived at Edinburgh on Saturday, the 14th of August; where he found his advisers Napier, Montrose, and others of their party in prison under a charge of perjury and leasing-making; the latter a species of crime now happily unknown to the Statute books of any part of this kingdom. In the parliament which was summoned on the king's arrival, Argyle reigned supreme, and had address and power enough, not only to keep the plotters,' as Montrose and his friends were called, in prison, but also to make the setting aside of their petition for justice look as if it had the approbation of the king as well as of the legislature. As the session of parliament was drawing to a close, an event occurred which threw the whole into confusion, and prevented that settlement of the public affairs to which their deliberations appeared to be tending. This was that bitherto unexplained occurrence which has received, what Godwin justly calls, the enigmatical appellation of the incident.' Brodie attributes this appellation to its unexpected nature;' but we are rather inclined with Mr. Napier to say, that it was from its base'less nature that it obtained this denomination. In consequence of a rash and very confused statement of Clarendon, the version of this story most commonly given is, that Montrose made an offer to Charles to assassinate Hamilton and Argyle, which the king rejected with indignation ; that Montrose, nevertheless, per