The Revenge of Charles II - the Restoration 1660-1688.

The return of Charles II from exile in 1660 began a period that Macaulay termed "the reign of saints  to be succeeded by the reign of strumpets." What in fact it became was  a reign of revenge as Charles  persecuted those who had so badly treated him in the short period of his earlier return to Scotland (1649 - 1651). Early action was taken against James Guthrie, the Marquis of Argyll who were both soon executed, to be followed later by Archibald Johnstone, Lord Warriston.

The approval for a new Parliament is recorded in Nicolls Diary, but the populace`s joy was short lived. It was summoned in 1661 and a resolution (17 May 1661 ) passed that the Covenant should be publicly burned and a Bill that declared the "Solemn League and Covenant" illegal ( 30 May 1661) created panic. Within days  there were moves to reconstruct the church which prompted hurried meetings of Synods and drafting of petitions. These were in some cases rejected, or simply ignored, and quite possibly sowed the seed for more action against the church. Convocations were declared illegal gatherings and dissolved; bishops were appointed ( the hierarchy of Fairfull, Leighton, Hamilton and Sharp having been consecrated in Westminster Abbey on 15 December 1661 - text image below)). The bishops designate were consecrated at Holyrood Abbey Church on Wednesday 7 May 1662, the following day nine of the fourteen new prelates took their seats in Parliament. The scene was now set for an attack on Presbytery.

The second session of Middleton`s parliament sat from 8 May until 9 September 1662. Its first act being the restoration off the "antient constitution, and that the clergie have their place and vote in parliament as formerlie".  This session saw the removal of many hard won acts removed from the statute book and new legislation that was `unacceptable` to the dissenting Presbyterians.

In Scotland the English Act of Uniformity 1662 was mirrored by an Act of 1662 which required all ministers who did not have a bishop`s licence to be presented by a patron and accept collation (approval) by a bishop. Subsequent action by the Kings Commissioner, Middleton, led to the eviction or `outing` of over 300 ministers from their manses. There was also action under an act of 1663 - An Act for Separation and Disobedience to Ecclesiastical Authority -  to force attendance at the parish church which were now held by the curates. Known as  the Bishops Dragnet,` fines were imposed and collected by military force. In the autumn of 1663 Parliament departed in the knowledge that it was unlikely to be called again, since  management of affairs now passed to the Privy Council.

An important change in the hierarchy of the Crown`s servants came with the forced resignation of Middleton in January 1664 and the appointment of his successor - the Duke of Rothes. Although more capable then Middleton, he was credited with a clear judgment and quick to pick up issues. But he was also a wild debaucher and largely illiterate and as keen as any to fill his own pocket. It was significant that from the outset his chief adviser was Archnishop James Sharp. Smellie in Men of the Covenant describes the duo thus

"Rothes was extortionate and brutal; the Prelate was revengeful and persistent in his enmities; with this duumvirate in authority the prospect for the friends of the Covenant was as gloomy as midnight."

The use of excessive force in the collection of fines led to more misery and bloodshed when an elderly man was seized by soldiers and threatened with torture in Dalry. This gave rise to the Pentland Rising in which the Covenanters were defeated in a skirmish at Rullion Green near Edinburgh in November 1666. Over a 100 prisoners were taken and many executed as an example to others. The "duumvirate"  of Sharp and Rothes excelled themselves in the speedy executions, and gloried in having heads and hands lopped off and sent to the dead men`s home towns for exhibition on church doors and gateways. Sharp meanwhile convinced the King to reintroduce the obsolete Court of High Commission for the summary trial and conviction of recusants. He was made President of this organ of oppression which became his personal weapon against the Covenanters.

By 1670 the land was under military rule with troops billeted among the people.  Increasingly odious laws against conventicles, the outdoor prayer meetings, were introduced including the infamous Bond which required landlords to be responsible for their tenants, and heads of families responsible for their wives and children. The widespread refusal to sign the Bond was responsible for the Highland Host being sent into Ayrshire and parts of Renfrewshire in January and February 1668. In 1679 Archbishop Sharp was assassinated and the Covenanters had modest military success against the infamous John Graham of Claverhouse in June 1679 at Drumclog. But the Covenanter army of about 5000 was riven by internal arguements and defeated at Bothwell Brig by the Duke of Monmouth. Over 400 were left CovPrison.jpg (18104 bytes) dead and 1100 prisoners taken and held in the open at Greyfriars Kirk Yard for up to five months. Two ministers were hung and others executed. Some 257 were sentenced to transportation to the West Indies but their ship, the Crown,  sank in bad weather off of Deerness in the Orkney Islands and 211 were drowned. The survivors were later transported in another ship.

The methodology of Oppression.

The methods used to persecute and oppress the Covenanters is almost beyond belief but evidence exists for all the following :

 " butchering, hanging, heading, mangling, dismembering alive, quartering upon scaffolds, imprisoning, laying in irons, torturing by boots, thumbkins, fire-matches, cutting pieces out of the ears of others, banishing and selling as slaves old and young men and women in great numbers, oppressing many others in their estates, forfeiting, robbing, spoiling, pillaging their goods, casting them out of their habitations, interdicting any to reset them, under the pain of being treated after the same manner". 

 Cruelty was more common then and certainly less condemned than now; but even if the Covenanters had been completely wrong and the government entirely right about all the matters at issue, it is impossible to justify the cruelties perpetrated on the Covenanters, particularly the use of torture, and execution without due process of law. The two favoured devices were "the boot" which shattered and crushed the lower leg; and the "thumb screws" that could mangle fingers as well as create excruciating pain.

Effects of Persecution

The effect of persecution was reflected in substantial migration of Scots to Ulster minded to settle there if land was available. It was estimated that about 30,000 went to Ulster between 1660 and 1690 and the numbers increased following bad harvests with an estimated 10,000 in 1692 alone. These migrants mostly entered Ulster via Londonderry and settled in the west of the province. Ironically the Scottish administration noted their concern at the exodus fearing that some heritours (landowners) would be left without tenants.

Another bastion for the exiled and fleeing Covenanters was Holland where there was full Communion with the Reformed Church of Holland and the Scots. There were Scottish churches  in Rotterdam, Campvere, Leyden, Amsterdam, Delft, Dordrecht, the Hague and Middleburg. Importantly Scottish probationer ministers were readily received by the Dutch Synod and the local "Classis" or Presbyteries,  conferred ordination or induction when required on the ministers elected by the Scottish congregations  within their bounds. It was not surprising therefore that the Societies sent Commissioners to Holland  or that the likes of Richard Cameron and James Renwick were ordained by Dutch ministers in association with exiled Presbyterians.

Despite defeats and severe penalties the Covenanters continued to resist led by such ministers as Donald Cargill and Richard Cameron, known as "Society Men" and also "The Cameronians".  A major act of both statement of principle and an alleged declaration of war, was the publishing of the Declaration at Sanquhar on 22 June calling for the removal of Charles II.  Richard Cameron , his brother and Donald Cargill among others, were subsequently Proclaimed Rebels and Traitors. Cameron was killed at Ayrs Moss on 22 July 1680

Famously, at a conventicle at Torwood in September 1680, Donald Cargill publicly excommunicated the King, his sons - James Duke of York (later James II)  and his illegitimate son James Duke of Monmouth;  and the leaders of the government who had been central to the persecution - the Duke of Lauderdale, the Duke of Rothes, the Lord Advocate Sir George MacKenzie and the the `Beast of Muscovy`  General Tam Dalziel of the Binns. Perhaps it was regarded as a small thing to those named, or perhaps a stinging riposte; but in the eyes of the Kirk and the People of God it was the ultimate denunciation and punishment.

The strongest and most extreme forms of Covenanting were to be found in Ayrshire and the south west in Dumfries and Galloway where dissenting ministers had substantial congregations. Their resistance took the form of guerilla tactics and attendance at open air meetings or conventicles which had members of the congregation who were armed and prepared to resist the troopers who searched for them. They were harried with very harsh laws by a government suspicious of treason, and by heavy handed military and judicial reprisals, especially after 1681. The `on the spot ` shootings and hangings reached their height in `The Killing Time" of 1684-5. 

It was no better for the Presbyterians when James II took the throne in 1685. James was open in his support for the Mass and made appointments of Catholics to positions of power which confirmed the worst fears of the Protestants. Before long other forces in England led to the call for William of Orange to take the Crown and the Scots joined them  with an invitation for William to take the Crown of Scotland. Famously James made an attempt  to recover his position and Crown in Ireland where his siege of Londonderry failed and the Battle of the Boyne (1690) finally assured the Protestant succession in Britain. The settlement gave toleration of Presbyterianism but it was not the pure church of the  Covenanters. Those who continued to dissent had earlier formed themselves into Praying Societies and became the Reformed Church of Scotland in later years.

A parting comment on Charles II is furnished from Fountainhall`s Historical Notices wherein he comments on the unveiling of the statue of Charles II in Parliament Close, Edinburgh in January 1686. The common vulgar people as he describes them, were nearest the mark in their opinion of Charles II.

"The late King's [CharlesII's] statue on horseback, was erected and set up in the Parliament Closse. It stood the Toune of Edinburgh very dear, more then 1000 lb. sterling. Some alledged, It was wrong placed, with the tayll to the great gate and image of Justice above the Parliament-[house] door. He is formed in the Roman manner, like one of the Caesars, almost naked, and so without spurs and without stirrups. . . . The vulgar peeple, who had never seen the like before, ware much amazed at it. Some compared it to Nebuchadnezar's image, which all fell doune and worshipped; and others foolishly to the pale horse in the Revelation, and he that sate theiron was Death."

Over 1100 ministers suffered for their faith and alleged crimes in the period of the Reformation  1560 - 1690.

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