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Graham, the sheriff of Wigtownshire, not Colonel John Grahame of Claverhouse.* Lord Macaulay might as well have confounded David Hume with Joseph Hume, or, as he did upon another occasion, Patrick Graham of the Town Guard with the hero of Killiecrankie, or George Penne with the founder of Pennsylvania. Even in this case, cruel and atrocious as it was, Lord Macaulay misquotes his authorities. He asserts that these unhappy women "suffered death for their religion." Wodrow and Crookshank, on the contrary, distinctly state that they were indicted and convicted for being in open rebellion at Bothwell Bridge and Aird's Moss. Lord Macaulay also omits to mention what is stated by the historians he refers to, namely, that upon the case being brought to the notice of the Council, the prisoners were respited, and a pardon recommended, but that the execution was hurried on by the brutality of Major Windram and the Laird of Lagg.t
In the case of Andrew Hislop, Lord Macaulay says that the Laird of Westerhall having discovered that one of the proscribed Covenanters had found shelter in the house of a respectable widow, and had died there, "pulled down the house of the poor woman, carried away her furniture, and, leaving her and her younger children to wander in the fields, dragged her son Andrew, who was still a lad, before Claverhouse, who happened to be marching through that part of the country."
For this Lord Macaulay cites Wodrow, but Wodrow's story is exactly the reverse. It was not Westerhall that brought Hislop a prisoner before Claverhouse, but Claverhouse that brought him before Westerhall, who, it is evident from the whole narrative, at that time possessed an authority superior to that of Claverhouse. Wodrow, after narrating the barbarous expulsion of the widow and her children, Andrew inclusive, by Westerhall, proceeds thus:-"When they were thus forced to wander, Claverhouse falls upon Andrew His
lop in the fields, May 10, and seized him, without any design, as appeared, to murder him, bringing him prisoner with him to Eskdale unto Westerraw that night."S
Wodrow adds: "Claverhouse in this instance was very backward, perhaps not wanting his own reflections upon John Brown's murder the first of this month, as we have heard, and pressed the delay of the execution. But Westerraw urged till the other yielded, saying, " The blood of this poor man be upon you, Westerraw; I am free of it." ||
This is the story as told by the bitterest enemy of Claverhouse. It is impossible for any one who looks at it with the slightest candour, or desire to discern the truth, not to perceive that the influence of Claverhouse was exercised on the side of humanity and mercy. Why does Lord Macaulay, whose narrative so frequently, without any authority whatever, assumes the dramatic form, in this instance suppress the words of Claverhouse, graphically recorded both by Wodrow and Crookshank, "The blood of this poor man be upon you, Westerraw; I am free of it"?
We now come to the only authority (except vulgar tradition) that Lord Macaulay has given for his character of Claverhouse. It is the oftenrepeated story of "John Brown, the Christian Carrier." Immediately upon the appearance of the first volume of Lord Macaulay's History, Professor Aytoun challenged the correctness of his picture of Claverhouse, and in a note to his noble and spiritstirring "Burial - March of Dundee," exposed, by means of the most accurate reasoning and the most conclusive evidence, the errors into which the historian had fallen. It is much to be regretted that Lord Macaulay, who availed himself of the corrections of the Professor upon some minor points, did not exercise the same discretion on this more important matter. The picture of Claverhouse, and the story of John Brown, have reappeared unaltered in each successive edition that has issued from the press.
* WODROW, ii. 505; CROOKSHANK, ii. 386.
+ Ibid. || Ibid.
We quote from the one published in of John Brown, and mutinied, refus
"John Brown, a poor carrier of Lanarkshire, was, for his singular piety, commonly called the Christian Carrier. Many years later, when Scotland enjoyed rest, prosperity, and religious freedom, old men, who remembered the evil days, described him as one versed in divine
things, blameless in life, and so peaceable that the tyrants could find no offence in him, except that he absented himself from the public worship of the Episcopalians. On the first of May he was cutting turf, when he was seized by Claverhouse's dragoons, rapidly examined, convicted of nonconformity, and sentenced to death. It is said that, even among the soldiers, it was not easy to find an executioner. For the wife of the poor man was present: she led one little child by the hand: it was easy to see that she was about to give birth to another; and even those wild and hard-hearted men, who nicknamed one another Beelzebub and Apollyon, shrank from the great wickedness of butchering her husband before her face. The prisoner, meanwhile, raised above himself by the near prospect of eternity, prayed loud and fervently, as one inspired, till Claverhouse, in a fury, shot him dead. It was reported by credible witnesses that the widow cried out in her agony, Well, sir, well, the day of reckoning will come;' and that the murderer replied, To man I can answer for what I have done, and as for God, I will take him into mine own hand.' Yet it was rumoured that even on his seared con
science and adamantine heart the dying ejaculations of his victim made an impression which was never effaced."*
This story of John Brown affords a curious example of the mode in which calumnies are propagated and grow; and at the risk of some repetition of what has already been so well done by Professor Aytoun, we shall proceed to trace the falsehood to its
Lord Macaulay cites as his authority "Wodrow, iii. ix. 6." But though following him in the main, Lord Macaulay seems to have been conscious that Wodrow's narrative would not bear the test of critical examination.
Wodrow asserts that the soldiers were melted and moved by the "scriptural expressions and grace of prayer"
MACAULAY, ii. 74.
ing to execute the commands of their officer. This seems to have been too
gross and palpable an improbability for Lord Macaulay, who represents them as merely moved by the natural feeling of compassion for the unhappy wife-more probable, certainly, but not the tale told by Wodrow. Again, Lord Macaulay asserts that Claverhouse shot John Brown dead in a fit of passion, excited by his loud and fervent prayers. This is Lord Macaulay, "pur et simple." Wodrow's statement is very different. He asserts that "not one of the soldiers would shoot him, or obey Claverhouse's commands, so that he was forced to turn executioner himself,
and in a fret shot him with his own hand."+ Wodrow asserts positively the refusal of the soldiers, and attributes the act of Claverhouse to that refusal. Lord Macaulay confines his statement to a natural reluctance on the part of the soldiers, and attributes the act of Claverhouse to a sudden gust of brutal and furious passion. It is painful to observe, and difficult to believe, the extent to which Lord Macaulay has considered himself entitled to garble, alter, and pervert the authorities he quotes; and it is strange that he should have adopted, upon the sole authority of Wodrow, a story which he yet appears to have felt to be so grossly improbable, that he could not produce it until he had pruned down some of its most extravagant features.
Wodrow's narrative first appeared in 1721-thirty-six years after the event is supposed to have taken place, and thirty-three after the Revolution. Professor Aytoun justly remarks that
"These dates are of the utmost importance in considering a matter of this kind.
The Episcopalian party which adhered to the cause of King James was driven from power at the Revolution, No mercy was shown to opponents in and the Episcopal Church proscribed. the literary war which followed. Every species of invective and vituperation was lavished upon the supporters of the fallen dynasty. Yet for thirty-three years after the Revolution, the details of this
+ WODROW, B. iii., ch. ix.
atrocious murder were never revealed to the public."
Wodrow gives no authority whatever for his narrative. But there is another historian, Patrick Walker the packman, who, two years after the appearance of Wodrow's History, namely, in 1724, gave a very different, and in many respects a contradictory, account of the same transaction.
Professor Aytoun, with rather an excess of candour, says that "Mr Macaulay may not have known that such testimony ever existed, for even the most painstaking historian is sure to pass over some material in so wide a field." True, but Lord Macaulay can hardly be supposed to have been unaware of the existence of a story which Sir Walter Scott has twice repeated at full length; first in the notes to the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border; and, secondly, in the Tales of a Grandfather, in both cases citing Walker's Life of Peden as his authority. But besides this there is other evidence of the falsehood of Wodrow, which it is difficult to account for Lord Macaulay having
In 1749 the Rev. William Crookshank published his History of the State and Sufferings of the Church of Scotland. In the preface he
"When I first engaged in this undertaking, I only intended to abridge Mr Wodrow's History; but by the advice
of friends I was induced to use other helps for making the history of this persecuting period more clear and full. Accordingly, when I mention anything not to be found in Wodrow, I generally tell my author, or quote him in the margin; so that though there is nothing I thought material in that author which I have omitted, yet the reader will find many things of consequence in the following work which the other takes no notice of."§
When Crookshank arrives at that part of his History which relates to John Brown, he abandons Wodrow altogether, and adopts Walker's narrative, citing him in the margin as
his authority. Here, then, we find Wodrow contradicted by the contemporary authority of Walker; Crookshank, the disciple and follower of Wodrow, confirming that contradiction, and feeling himself obliged to discard his master's story; Sir Walter Scott casting the weight of his authority into the same scale; and yet Lord Macaulay, with all this evidence before him, added to the gross improbability of the tale itself, reproduces Wodrow's story in edition after edition, with certain alterations purely his own, and calls it History!
Walker hated Claverhouse with a hatred fully as bitter as that of Wodrow; he cannot, therefore, be suspected of having suppressed or softened down any circumstance that could tell against him, or enhance the tragic nature of the scene. states that he derived part, at least, of his account from the widow of the murdered man; the testimony he relies upon is therefore that most hostile to Claverhouse. Walker was a contemporary of Wodrow, though many years older, and had borne a part in the troubled times to which the History of the latter relates. In 1682 he shot a dragoon who attempted to capture him. According to Walker's own account, he and two of his comrades, returning from a nightly meeting armed with firearms, were pursued by one Francis Garden, a trooper in Lord Airley's regiment, alone, and armed only with his sword. How he intended to capture his prisoners, unless after the Irish fashion of "surrounding" them, does not very clearly appear. The result, however, was, that Walker shot him through the head. Writing more than thirty years after the event, and when, according to Lord Macaulay, "Scotland enjoyed rest, prosperity and religious freedom," he says"When I saw his blood run, I wished that all the blood of the Lord's stated and avowed enemies in Scotland had been in his veins having such a clear call and opportunity, I would have rejoiced to have seen it all gone out with a gush."||
*Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers, App., p. 334. +Note to the "Battle of Bothwell Brig." S CROOKSHANK, Preface, xix.
History of Scotland, chap. lii. Life of Peden.
We may therefore feel well assured that nothing which could be told "stated and avowed against such a enemy of the Lord" as Claverhouse, would be omitted by Walker; and it should at least throw a doubt on the veracity of Wodrow, when we find so zealous a Covenanter denouncing his History as a collection of "lies and groundless stories."
Walker's Life of Peden first appeared in 1724, three years after the publication of Wodrow's History. It is still widely circulated and extremely popular amongst the peasants of Scotland, and has been frequently reprinted up to the present time in the form of a chap book. That even this account, though more trustworthy than that of Wodrow, is not to be received with implicit confidence, will, we think, be admitted, when it is observed that the story is first revealed in a miraculous manner to the inspired Mr Peden, or as he commonly calls himself, "Old Sandy." On the morning of John Brown's death, Peden was at a house about ten or eleven miles distant.
"Betwixt seven and eight he desired to call in the family that he might pray among them. He said, 'Lord when wilt thou avenge Brown's blood? Oh, let Brown's blood be precious in thy sight, and hasten the day when thou'lt avenge it with Cameron's, Cargill's, and many other of our martyrs' names. And oh for that day when the Lord would avenge all their bloods!' When ended, John Muirhead inquired what he meant by Brown's blood! He said twice over, 'What do I mean? Claverhouse has been at the Preshill this morning, and has cruelly murdered John Brown. His corpse is lying at the end of his house, and his poor wife sitting weeping by his corpse, and not a soul to speak comfortably to her. This morning, after the sun-rising, I saw a strange apparition in the firmament, the appearance of a very bright, clear, shining star fall from heaven to earth; and, indeed, there is a clear, shining light fallen this day, the greatest Christian that ever I conversed with.'
Walker's narrative of the death of Brown is as follows. Between five and six in the morning, he says—
"The said John Brown having performed the worship of God in his family, was going, with a spade in his hand, to make ready some peat ground. The mist being
very dark, he knew not until cruel and bloody Claverhouse compassed him with three troops of horse, brought him to his house, and there examined him; who, though he was a man of a stammering speech, yet answered him distinctly and solidly, which made Claverhouse to examine those whom he had taken to be his guides through the muirs, if ever they heard him preach? They answered, No, no; he was never a preacher.' He said, 'If he has never preached, meikle he has prayed in his time.' He said to John, Go to your prayers, for you shall immediately die.' When he was praying, Claverhouse interrupted him three times; one time that he stopt him, he was pleading that the Lord would spare a remnant, and not make a full end in the day of His anger. Claverhouse said, 'I gave you time to pray, and ye are begun to preach.' He turned upon his knees and said, 'Sir, you know neither the nature of preaching or praying, that calls this preaching.' Then continued without confusion.
When ended, Claverhouse said, "Take good-night of your wife and children.' His wife, standing by with her child in her arms that she had brought forth to him, and another child of his first wife's, he came to her and said,
Now, Marian, the day is come that I told you would come, when I spake first to you of marrying me.' She said, 'Indeed, John, I can willingly part with you.' Then,' he said, this is all I desire; I have no more to do but die.' He kissed his wife and bairns, and wished purchased and promised blessings to be multiplied upon them, and his blessing. Claverhouse ordered six soldiers to shoot him. The most part of the bullets came upon his head, which scattered his brains upon the ground. Claverhouse said to his wife, 'What thinkest thou of thy husband now, woman?' She said, 'I thought ever much of him, and now as much as ever.' He said, 'It were but justice to lay thee beside him.' She said, If you were permitted, I doubt not but your crueltie would go that length; but how will ye make answer for this morning's work?' He said, 'To man I can be answerable, and for God, I will take him in my own hand.' Claverhouse mounted his horse, and marched, and left her with the corpse of her dead husband lying there; she set the bairn on the ground, and gathered his brains, and tied up his head, and straighted his body, and covered him in her plaid, and sat down and wept over him. It being a very desert place, where never victual grew, and far from neighbours, it was
some time before any friends came to her. The first that came was a very fit hand, that old singular Christian woman in the Cummerhead, named Elizabeth Menzies, three miles distant, who had
suppose that she could have omitted such a circumstance as that her husband's eloquence had moved the hearts of the soldiers to mutiny, and com
been tried with the violent death of her pelled their commander to take upon
husband at Pentland, afterwards of two worthy sons-Thomas Weir, who was killed at Drumclog, and David Steel, who was suddenly shot afterwards when taken. The said Marian Weir, sitting upon her husband's grave, told me, that before that she could see no blood but she was in danger to faint, and yet she was helped to be a witness to all this without either fainting or confusion; except when the shots were let off, her eyes dazzled."
That this wild, picturesque, and touching story should have taken strong hold on the poetical imagination and kind heart of Sir Walter Scott, can be no matter of surprise to any one. That it did so, is shown, not only by his frequent reference to it, but by the mode in which his genius has interwoven some of the most affecting incidents into the beautiful episode of Bessie Maclure.* But the historian had a far different task from that of the novelist. duty was to compare the two narrations, and to examine how much of either should be admitted as trustworthy evidence. That Walker's testimony is sufficient to convict Wodrow of falsehood in asserting that the soldiers mutinied, and that Claverhouse was himself the executioner of John Brown, is abundantly clear. Walker's informant was the widow of John Brown, an eyewitness of the transaction, and most hostile to Claverhouse. She told the story "sitting on her husband's grave." To
* Old Mortality, chap. vi.
himself the revolting office of an executioner, would be absurd. Nor is this all. We find the circumstances of his death narrated with the utmost particularity, no doubt by the widow herself, and there is not from beginning to end a hint that the soldiers shrank from executing the commands of their officer. But when we come to the adjuncts of the story, to the conversation, to the particular expressions supposed to have been used by Claverhouse, to his imputed "obduracy and profanity," his "seared conscience and adamantine heart," the question assumes a very different aspect.
The poetical power of Walker's mind was of no mean order. As Sir Walter Scott observes, his "simple but affecting narrative," and his "imitation of scriptural style, produces in some passages an effect not unlike what we feel in reading the beautiful Book of Ruth." The narrative constantly runs into the form of dialogue. Every one knows, and none better than those who have read Lord Macaulay's History with care, how dangerous the dramatic talent is to a historian. In the majority of instances, even in Lord Macaulay's own History, when we have had occasion to test the accuracy of passages which he has enclosed between inverted commas, as being the very words of the speaker, we have found them incorrectly quoted. It seems in the highest degree improbable that
+ Minstrelsy, App. A.
The following are a few instances, taken almost at random :-
"He [i. e., Claverhouse] told Keppoch in the presence of all the officers of his small army, that he would much rather choose to serve as a common soldier amongst disciplined troops, than command such men as he, who seemed to make it his business to draw the odium of the country upon him.
begged that he would immediately begone with his men, that he might not hereafter have an opportunity of affronting the general at his pleasure, or of
"I would rather,' he said, 'carry a musket in a respectable regiment, than be captain of such a gang of thieves.”— MACAULAY, iii. 340.