FOR A GENTLEMAN THERE IS MR. BAILLIE.
THERE are two methods of fighting tyrants. One is open,
and the other is secret. One courts the blaze of noonday, and boldly proclaims
its purpose; the other, for a time, prefers to haunt the shadows, and matures
its plans in hidden places. When the tyranny has become intolerable, both
methods have their justification, and demand no apology among those who assent
to old John Barbours creed that freedom is a noble thing.
The Cameronians chose the open way. It was in the sun that they unfolded their banner. Richard Cameron at Sanquhar, and Donald Cargill at Torwood, published in the countrys hearing their stupendous ultimatum. They were determined that, let the issues be what they might, men should know where they stood. And this gallant recklessness had its reward. To themselves it brought the great prize of death in battle or on the martyrs scaffold. Into many others it breathed new heart and hope, making the final deliverance more certain. Never let us forget that the Hillmen only antedated, by a few years, the better age of the Revolution.
But there were Whig politicians and patriots, who, seeking the same ends, took the quieter road. It seemed premature and rash to depose the King and his minions in the audience of the world. In their judgment, just as in that of their outspoken allies, resistance to the Crown was now a religious duty. They were worn out by the long continuance of misrule. They believed that, before many months had passed, the hour of reckoning must strike. They were convinced as to the necessity of bestirring themselves, if they would save the cause of liberty and check the leprosy of corruption which was spreading everywhere. But they wished to postpone the explicit avowal of their schemes. Until their friends had gathered and the propitious moment had arrived, it appeared the part of wisdom to cultivate a cautious and reticent spirit. These Whig statesmen held that there are enterprises which, like mosses and ferns, thrive at first in the twilight, and may wither if they are exposed too soon to the glare of day.
In July 1681, James, Duke of York, the Kings brother, came down to Edinburgh as Royal Commissioner in succession to Lauderdale. He was not unknown in Scotland, which he had visited more than once, and where he had many friends. But now he seemed to have undergone a change for the worse. Savage as Lauderdale had been, the old lion who was dying at Tunbridge Wells, the Kings heir was not a whit more merciful. He showed himself bigoted, saturnine, hard as the nether millstone. At once he initiated a policy, the trend of which could not be mistaken. Having called a Parliament, the first that had been convened for many a day, he compelled it to sanction two measures which were a significant index of his character. One was the Act of Succession, declaring that no difference in religion can divert the lineal descent of the Crown. He was himself an unconcealed Romanist, and the design of the Act was patent; it was intended to throw the shield of the law over a Popish king. The other measure struck a blow even more crushing. It was a Test, which all persons aspiring to any oflice in Church or State must take. So stringent it was, so long- winded, and at the same time so contradictory, that eighty of the Episcopal clergymen of the country refused to be bound by it, and, resigning their benefices, withdrew to Holland. Sir James Dairymple, the President of the Court of Session, gave up his dignities rather than pledge himself to obligations which were impossible to fulfil. And the Earl of Argyl, son of the great Marquis, and a man who had striven to maintain his loyalty under immense difficulties, said that he would swear the Test only in so far as it was consistent with itself, and in so far, too, as it did not engage him to do anything against the Protestant faith. For this explication, as it was styled, he was thrown into prison in the Castle of Edinburgh; and, if he had not escaped in the disguise of a page, holding up the train of his stepdaughter, the Lady Sophia Lindsay, he would have been executed within a few days.
Things were serious enough in the Scotland which the Duke of York ruled, although gleams of humour shot through the Egyptian darkness. This was the time when the boys of Heriots Hospital resolved to administer the Test to their watchdog. Greatly daring, they turned into a jest the rambling and illogical and terrible oath. The dog sensibly refused to eat the paper on which they had written out the enactment. Even when they smeared it with butter, that the vexatious sentences might be more palatable, the sagacious animal licked the butter off, and then discarded the essential parchment. So, having gone through such a mock-trial as had been given to the Earl of Argyll, they gravely hanged the nonjuror for his obstinacy. One may be permitted a sigh over the sufferers undeserved fate; but is it not good to hear the childrens laughter pealing through the cheerless midnight? Men and women could not laugh. They feared for themselves and for their friends, whenever they caught sight of the Kings Commissioner. Bishop Burnet tells us how, when the other members of the Privy Council used to leave the chamber if a prisoner was to be tortured in the Boots, unable to look on at the excruciating process, the Duke remained and took note of all that was done, as if he were watching a curious experiment in science. Under the morose face there seemed to be a heart of stone.
We do not wonder that righteous men became conspirators. In England, through the whole of 1682, the great Whig plot had been moving forward. It aimed at accomplishing a revolution, but a revolution which should leave a constitutional monarchy behind, and which should simply exclude James from the throne. The leaders were the Duke of Monmouth, Lord William Russell, Lord Essex, and Sir Algernon Sidney. Monmouth, the illegitimate son of Charles, and the commander of the Royal troops at Bothwell Bridge, had no genuine moral strength, and was governed mainly by his fondness for popularity and position; but the others were patriots of the purest kind. They were anxious to gain and keep the goodwill of the malcontents among the gentlemen of Scotland. They corresponded with the Earl of Argyll, a fugitive now on the friendly shores of Holland. And in London they had the advice of William Carstares, and Fletcher of Saltoun, and Baillie of Jerviswood. Carstares, a born diplomatist, had his shining virtue but sometimes he reached his goal by circuitous paths; he was afterwards to be King Williams astute coadjutor in everything relating to the northern parts of the realm. Baillies was a simpler and higher nature, and he would have welcomed the frankest and manfullest opposition to the royal encroachments. When Carstares, finding that the English were somewhat languid in carrying out the common purpose, insisted that the Scots should stay their preparations and walk with wariness, Robert Baillie stoutly maintained the contrary opinion. That their allies were laggards was no reason, he argued, why the Scots should not immediately unfurl the standard of the peoples rights. It might be more arduous and more hazardous to risk the undertaking alone, but it was also more glorious. If they should succeed, as he believed they could succeed, it would not be the first time, since the Stuarts inherited the sceptre of Henry the Eighth and Elizabeth, that Englishmen owed to Scotland their enfranchisement from tyranny. But politic Carstares - Cardinal Carstares, as he was dubbed in subsequent days - prevailed with his counsels of moderation; and, before an aggressive step was taken, the secret was out and the retribution fell
Now, side by side with this great conspiracy, in which some of the finest spirits in the two countries were engaged, and which desired nothing but a beneficent change of government, there was being matured an unworthier plot whose intention was the assassination of the King and the Duke of York. The confederates who hatched the bloodthirsty project nicknamed the royal brothers Slavery and Popery; or sometimes they gave them sobriquets borrowed from their personal appearance: Charles, a dusky monarch, was the Blackbird, while the Duke, who was blonde, was the Goldfinch. Many were the debates as to where and when they should be killed. With one or two the proposal was to shoot at them from Bow Steeple; others would have them attacked in St. Jamess Park or in their barge on the river. The road between Hampton Court and Windsor, and that between London and Winchester, highways in which King and Duke were often seen, were suggested too. At last Rumbold, who had been a fearless officer among the Ironsides, but who was irreconcilably Republican in his political creed, invited the conspirators to meet at his house, the Rye, about eighteen miles from London, in Hertfordshire. Near it ran a narrow lane which Charles was in the habit of using as he travelled to and from Newmarket. On one side of the lane grew a thick hedge, on the other was an outhouse with several windows; men bent on desperate deeds could not have wished a spot more suitable for the execution of their plan. The mansion itself stood hard by; it was surrounded by a moat, and could easily be defended by a few determined fighters. The offer of the advantageous place was instantly accepted, and therefore we speak of the Ryehouse Plot. But the plot came to nothing, for the King left Newmarket on an earlier day than was expected, and there were no antagonists to intercept him as he drove rapidly home to Whitehall And then one of the band, after much conflict with himself, uneasy in mind about so ugly a business, resolved to discharge his conscience of the hellish secret. The disclosure had momentous consequences. Some of the Ryehouse men were aware of the existence of the other scheme. They had striven to secure the help of the Whig gentlemen in their own wilder enterprise;but they had been indignantly repelled. Now, when they were examined by the lawyers of the King, they revealed what they knew of the doings of Monmouth and Russell and Sidney and Baillie.
We need not linger over the issues, so far as these concerned England. Few pages in British history are more touching and splendid than those which narrate how Lord William Russell underwent his trial; how he parted with his children and his wife, his eyes following her as she left his cell, and then turned to Gilbert Burnet and said, The bitterness of death is past; now calmly he moved through the crowded streets to the scaffold, and prayed his last prayer, and died. And Algernon Sidney ranks among the most heroic in our rough island story.
In his imprisonment he sent for some Independent preachers, and expressed to them a deep remorse for his past sins and great confidence in the mercies of God. And indeed he met death with an unconcernedness that became one who had set up Marcus Brutus for his pattern. He was but a very few minutes on the scaffold at Tower Hill; he spoke little, and prayed very short, and his head was cut off at one blow.
It is round the Scottish victim, Robert Baillie of Jerviswood, that our interest gathers.
James Stirling of Paisley, Wodrows friend, will introduce us to him. He was a man of great natural parts, and learned, and well-travelled, and very pious from his very youth. He said, as I heard, that God had begun to work upon him when he was about ten years of age - that Christ crucified had been his daily study and constant delight. He was a man that had a sort of majesty in his face and stateliness in his carriage. There are other witnesses who confirm James Stirling. Burnet photographs the Laird of Jerviswood in one happy line: A gentleman of great parts, but of much greater virtue. And John Owen, the massive Puritan, is unstinted in his admiration. You have truly men of great spirits in Scotland, he said once; there is for a gentleman Mr. Baillie, a person of the greatest abilities I almost ever met with. We are to think of a country proprietor of the best type, with estates in Lanark and Berwickshire. He is a great-grandson of John Knox. He has married one of the daughters of Archibald Johnston, Lord Warriston. He is a just and kindly landlord. He is a man, moreover, who thoroughly deserves Dr. Owens tribute..a man of vigorous intellect, who can read various languages, who has a liking for mathematics, and who dabbles in scientific speculation and experiment. Better still, he is a little child in the household of faith, walking in humility and in friendship with his God. Let us hear Mr. Stirling again: He owned himself a true Presbyterian, and a son of the Church of Scotland in her purest and best times. He was a great lover of public ordinances and Communion occasions; he was frequently present at several Communions in Camnethan and he went to the Table there with a great measure of seriousness and devotion, greatly trembling, and yet sweetly coming forward with a holy boldness. Robert Baillie was wealthy, and scholarly, and saintly; and it is not often that we can apply the three adjectives to one man.
And what a good citizen he was! He had thought much about the problems of the State. His opinions were carefully weighed and wise. If King Charles had understood his opportunity, he would have summoned him to the Council-board instead of hurrying him to the public executioner. for my principles with relation to Government, he wrote they are such as I ought not to be ashamed of, being consonant to the Word of God, the Confessions of Faith of the Reformed Churches, the rules of policy, reason, and humanityl He was, in fact, a gifted and devout champion of freedo in every department of the nations life. Only the direst necessity drove such a man into the comradeship of conspirators; loyalty was his native soil and air, but then it loyalty to the righteousness and the clemency and the stateliness of soul which invest the ruler with his true sovereign He had been associated with those nobles and burgesses wh in these dreary months at home, were promoting a scheme of emigration from Britain to South Carolina; but it cut him the quick that in the land he loved religion and justice should be standing on tiptoe, ready to pass to the American strand. We have seen him taking his share in the negotiations by which honest and courageous statesmen hoped to inaugurate change - such a change as should harmonise the liberties the subject with the prerogatives of the Crown; but he was no extremist and leveller. If his inquisitors in Edinburgh tried to link him with the Ryehouse Plot, they did not succeed ; he wished an end of tyranny, but he held tyrannicide in abhorrence. It is certain that his affection for Church and Covenant had an emphasis about it which was missing from that of Argyll and Fletcher and Carstares; but it is as certain that he outstripped them in the intelligence and steadfastness of his attachment to the institutions of the State. Robert Baillies chivalrous patriotism should have been beyond suspicion.
He was captured in London, in the summer of 1683. For some months he lay in prison there, so heavily loaded with irons that his health broke down. On different occasions he was examined by the Kings Judges, and, once at least, by the King himself. But they could not extort from him the information which they were eager to gain. They determined that, in company with the other Scottish prisoners, he should be sent to Edinburgh, where the laws were more arbitrary, and where torture could be applied to compel confession. On the 1st of November the royal yacht, the Kitchin, sailed from London. It was a protracted and stormy voyage of a fortnights duration. On the 14th, Baillie, with William Carstares and the Campbells of Cessnock and Mure of Rowallan and the rest of the accused men, was carried from Leith up to Edinburgh, and was lodged in the Tolbooth.
He was in the lowest state of weakness now. His wife, the child of one good soldier of Christ and the helpmate of another, begged that she might be admitted to his dungeon, and declared her readiness to be laid in irons at his side, if the Council feared that she meant to aid him to escape; but her petition was roughly rejected. His little daughter, who longed to comfort him in his sore sickness, was denied access to her father. At length, when his bodily frailties had increased so alarmingly that death seemed close at hand, Mrs. Baillie and his sister-in-law, Lady Graden received a grudging permission to attend upon him. For his enemies were by no means desirous that he should slip from them so quietly and so soon. That would both disappoint them of their revenge and rob them of the legal power to forfeit the prisoners estates. That they might make sure of profiting to some extent, they imposed on him a great fine of £6000 for harbouring the out-lawed preachers; the common feelings of humanity had deserted judges whose tender mercies were so cruel. Yet, we learn from one who knew him, he was so composed, and. even so cheerful, that his behaviour looked like the reviving of the spirit of the noblest of the old Greeks or Romans, rather of the primitive Christians and first martyrs in those best days of the Church.
Meanwhile, in the September of 1684 - for the Edinburgh imprisonment lasted through a long time - the authorities had been torturing Carstares. The Kings smith accompanied His Majestys Privy Councillors, bringing with him a new pair of thumbkins, which were warranted to do their gruesome work in the deadliest fashion. The prisoners thumbs were inserted and screwed down, until the sweat of his anguish streamed over forehead and cheeks. The Dukes of Hamilton and Queensberry rose after a few minutes, and left the room finding the horrible scene too much for their nerves to bear. But Lord Perth, who presided, ordered the executioner to give the instrument another turn; and General Dalzell in a rage came up to Carstares, and vowed that he would roast him alive if he did not divulge whatever he knew. It was in vain The sufferer continued firm, although the cruelty was prolonged for near an hour and a half. Some days later, however, when he was threatened with a repetition of the frightful experience, or with the still worse agonies of the Boot, promised to answer the questions which might be put to him first making the stipulation that nothing he said should brought, directly or indirectly, against any man who was on trial The condition was acquiesced in; he was told that replies would be matters of confidence. In these replies, Robert Baillies name was mentioned more than once. It what the Privy Council had been seeking for; and, when they had the information, they did not scruple to break the engagement with Carstares. They determined to use every syllable which they had drawn from his unwilling lips.
Late in December, when his life was hanging by a thread and he was so feeble that he was brought to the bar wrapt in his nightgown, Baillie confronted his judges. Because of her ill-health, his wife was absent; but Lady Graden sat by his side, and supported him, and had often to give him cordials to prevent him from fainting away. Sir George Mackenzie recited his crimes. He dwelt on the relationships of the accused man: Remember you that he is nephew and son-in- law to the late Wariston, bred up in his family and under his tutory. He was at pains to identify the Ryehouse Plot with the larger designs of Lord William Russell and the Earl of Argyll, and he charged the prisoner with having a pre-eminent part in the less defensible scheme. Then he described how Carstares, a chief conspirator, had incriminated Robert Baillie. With the deft and unlovely cleverness of a Machiavelli, he connected the Presbyterian ministers unwillingness to give his evidence with his knowledge that the information was to be employed against his comrade; and he deduced Baillies guilt from that scrupulosity which the Privy Council had at last discovered how to overcome. Mr. Carstares knew, he said, when he was to depone, that his deposition was to be used against Jerviswood; and he stood more in awe of his love to his friend than of the fear of the torture, and hazarded rather to die for Jerviswood than that Jerviswood should die by him. How can it then be imagined that this kindness, which we all admired in him, would have suffered him to forget anything which might have been advantageous in the least to his friend?
They understand ill this height of friendship, who think that it would not have been more nice and careful than any advocate could have been. It is disingenuous reasoning; and, when one wants to study the sacred subject of friendship, one turns to other teachers than Sir George Mackenzie.
But Robert Baillie listened undismayed. When the advocate finished, he had his opportunity. In his physical frailty he was compelled to lean on the bar in front of him; but there was no lessening of his spiritual nerve and force. He addressed the President of the Court. My lord, he said, the sickness now upon me, in all human appearance, will soon prove mortal, and I cannot live many days. I find I am intended for a public sacrifice in my life and estate; and my doom being predetermined, I am only sorry, under the circumstances, that my trial has given the Court so much and so long trouble. Then, turning to the jury, he went on: As to the witnesses who have appeared against me, I do most heartily forgive them: but - and now there were fire and energy in his words - there is one thing where I am injured to the last degree, that is, to be charged with a plot to cut of the King and the Duke of York. I am in all probability appear in a few hours before the tribunal of the Great Judge, In His omniscient presence, I solemnly declare that never I prompted or privy to any such thing, and that I abhor and detest all thoughts and principles that would lead to touching the life and blood of His Majesty, or of his royal brother, or any person whatever. I was ever for monarchical government and I designed nothing in all my public appearances, which have been few, but the preservation of the Protestant religion the safety of His Majestys person, the redressing of grievances by King and Parliament, the relieving of the oppressed, and putting a stop to the shedding of blood.
The freedom, for which so true and wise a reformer hungered must broaden slowly down. A dramatic incident followed. With a sudden movement he forsook the President and the jury, and fixed his eye straight and full on Sir George Mackenzie. My Lord Advocate, the brave voice rang, as if before death its strength were being renewed, I think it strange that you accuse me of such abominable things. When you came to me in the prison, you told me that such things were laid to my charge but that you did not believe them. Are you convinced in your conscience that I am more guilty now than I was at the interview where you acquitted me of guilt? Do you remember what passed betwixt us in the prison? At once the gaze of the court was fixed on Mackenzie. He rose, annoyed and embarrassed. Jerviswood, he replied, I own what you say. My thoughts were then as a private man; but what I say here is by special direction of the Privy Council. He, pointing to Sir William Paterson, the Clerk, of the Justices, he knows my orders. Well, my lord, came the stinging and unanswerable response, if your lordship has one conscience for yourself and another for the Council, I pray God to forgive you: I do. My lords, I trouble your lordships no further.
The trial lasted until three oclock in the morning of the 24th of December. The same day, six hours later, the jury found him guilty. It was plain that he was sick unto death, and, says Lauder of Fountainhall, who had been Mackenzies junior at the memorable assize, the holy days of Yule were approaching; so the Government, at once bloodthirsty and pious, must not delay the sacrifice. The Doomster declared the verdict. That very afternoon, between two and four of the clock, the convicted man must die. His head was to be placed on the Netherbow; his limbs were to be scattered throughout Scotland; his possessions were forfeit; his blood was tainted. Another degradation was added. The Kings heralds came forward, and, having sounded their trumpets, they tore asunder the Jerviswood coat of arms, and trampled it under their feet, and proclaimed the martyrs family humiliated and abased. It was malediction heaped on malediction, one ban treading fast and hard on the heels of a preceding ban. When he had heard it all, he drew himself up. My lords, he said, in words which never were forgotten, the time is short; the sentence is sharp; but I thank my God who hath made me as fit to die as ye are to live. He was the conqueror in the evil and yet glorious scene.
With Lady Gradens arm to sustain him, he left the court for his prison. As they passed Lord Waristons house, he looked up to a well-known window, and, smiling, said to Helen Johnston, Many a sweet day and night with God had your now glorified father in that chamber. He was himself a Christian whose unceasing joy had been to maintain communion with the heavenly place. We have learned how solitary his confinement was, and how his tormentors were reluctant to allow him the solace of intercourse with a single human friend. But in the cell next to his own lay some others bound, as he was, with a chain for the Hone of Israel; and when they went together about worship, he brought his chair hard to their door, and laboured thus to join with them as far as he could. Now, for a brief hour or two, was back in the Tolbooth for the last time. So soon as entered the dungeon, we are told, he threw himself on his bed, and broke into a prayer which soared like incense to the skies. He was in a rapture; there was a shining light about his looks; the tears of gladness refused to be held L check. He spoke like one who was already in his Father house. Rising from his knees, he assured those beside him that, long ago, God had begun the good work in him, that He had carried it steadfastly on, and that now He was putting the copestone upon it. Within a few hours, he said, I shall be beyond conception inexpressibly well. By and by when the moment had come for departure, he kissed his wife - his son George, a lad of nineteen, who was to be a statesman in King Williams time, and the little daughter kissed them, and blessed them, and pleaded earnestly that God might be with them. And, he added, within little we shall have a cheerful and blithe meeting. So, pleasantly, good James Stirling writes, he parted with them all.
Lady Graden, strengthened inwardly by the Spirit of God, went with him to the scaffold. She had to help him up the ladder, his body was so worn. When he had reached the topmost step, he cast his glance over the crowd. My faint zeal for the Protestant religion, he said, has brought me to this end. But it was not the wish of his adversaries that he should address a multitude in which he had many sympathisers, and immediately the drums began to beat, There was no reason, he continued, why the rulers should trouble themselves; for he had not intended to speak any more. Then he gave himself anew to prayer, and, as he prayed, the executioner did his work; and Robert Baillie had fought his last fight and his best.
The Whig movement for reform, like the Camerothan movement, was baptised in blood. But the baptism of blood very often is the preface of deliverance and the avenue to victory. A Hebrew psalm declares that through fire and water men are conducted to the wealthy place; and the doctrine of the psalm has been illustrated in many another epoch than the Old Testament area, and in many another land than Palestine.
From "Men of the Covenant" by Alexander Smellie.
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