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THE DOUGLASES.
INTRODUCTION.
page 45

While lying off Sluys, Douglas learned that Alphonso, the young King of Leon and Castile, was carrying on hostilities with Osmyn, the Moorish King of Granada. As this was reckoned a holy warfare Douglas resolved, before proceeding to Jerusalem, in fulfilment of his own mission, to assist Alphonso in his contest with the enemies of the Christian faith. He accordingly sailed to Spain, and shortly after his arrival at Seville a battle was fought with the Moors near Theba, on the frontiers of Andalusia. Douglas, to whom the command of the vanguard was assigned, fought with his usual bravery and put the enemy to flight; but he and his companions, pursuing the fugitives too eagerly, were separated from the main body of the Spanish army. The Moors, perceiving the small number of their pursuers, rallied and surrounded them. Douglas, [p.45] who had only ten men with him, cut his way through the enemy, and might have made good his retreat, had he not turned back to rescue Sir William St. Clair of Roslin, whom he saw surrounded by the Moors and in great jeopardy. 'Yon worthy knight will be slain,' he exclaimed, 'unless he have instant help.' And putting spurs to his horse he galloped back to St. Clair's assistance. But, in attempting to save his friend, he was surrounded and overwhelmed by the crowds of the Moors, who were twenty to one. When he found himself inextricably involved, he took from his neck the casket which contained the heart of Bruce, and throwing it before him he exclaimed, 'Now pass thou onward as thou wert wont, and Douglas will follow thee or die!' He then rushed forward to the place where it fell, and was there slain, along with Sir William St. Clair and Sir Robert and Sir Walter Logan. On the following day the body of the hero of seventy battles was found on the field beside the casket, and by his few surviving friends sorrowfully conveyed to Scotland and interred in the sepulchre of his ancestors in St. Bride's Church at Douglas. The heart of Bruce was buried by Randolph, Earl of Moray, in Melrose Abbey.
 

THE RUTHVENS OF GOWRIE.
INTRODUCTION.
page 171

But it was not until eight years after the death of Gowrie and his brother that the most conclusive evidence of the truth of the conspiracy was brought to light. A notary named Sprot, who resided in Eyemouth, a fishing village near St. Abb's Head, hinted to several persons that he was acquainted with some secrets respecting the Gowrie conspiracy. These intimations reached the ears of the members of the Privy Council, who caused Sprot to be apprehended and examined by torture. He made a full confession of all that he knew, and produced some portions of a correspondence which Robert Logan, the laird of Restalrig, had carried on with the two brothers. A certain Laird Bower, a retainer of Logan's, had been entrusted with the perilous task of carrying these letters, and as he was unable to read or write, he had been obliged to obtain the assistance of Sprot to decipher the instructions which were addressed to him by his master. The notary, fatally for himself, had stolen some of these letters from among Bower's papers. The documents were produced, and after a careful examination by the Privy Council, declared to be in Logan's handwriting. The unfortunate notary was condemned to be hanged for misprision or concealment of treason. He adhered to his confession to the last, and after being thrown from the ladder he thrice clapped his hands in confirmation of the truth of his confession. Logan had died some years before this, but his bones were dug up and brought to the bar of the Justiciary Court, where the dead man was put on his trial for treason. He was found guilty, and by a sentence equally odious and illegal, his lands were forfeited and his posterity declared infamous. The discovery of Logan's letters was thought to have set this disputed question finally at rest; [p.171] but Mr. Bisset professes to find in these documents the strongest corroboration of his disbelief of the conspiracy. Some of his arguments are ingenious and not wholly without weight, and if the letters had disappeared grave doubts might have been entertained of their genuineness. But the originals have, fortunately, been preserved and are deposited in the General Register Office, Edinburgh. It is somewhat surprising to learn that Mr. Bisset, who has taken upon him so confidently to pronounce these documents spurious, has never seen them, and has contented himself with requesting a friend to examine them for the purpose of ascertaining whether the paper on which they are written bears the watermark of the year 1600. This friend of course informed him that there was no watermark of any year on the paper. Mr. Bisset might and ought to have known, that it was not until a century after the date of the Gowrie conspiracy that a watermark with a year on it came into use. The genuineness of these letters was attested at the time by several witnesses who were acquainted with Logan's handwriting. They have repeatedly of late years been subjected to a searching scrutiny by persons skilled in deciphering ancient papers, and have been compared with undoubted specimens of Logan's handwriting, and the result has been a unanimous and unhesitating decision in favour of the genuineness of the letters.
 

page 172

Logan, the writer of these letters, was a gentleman of ancient family, the uterine brother of Lord Home, but a reckless and unprincipled villain, a scoffer at religion, and a person of openly profligate life. He had recently come into the possession of Fast Castle, an ancient possession of the Home family, which has been immortalised as the 'Wolf's Craig' of Sir Walter Scott's 'Bride of Lammermoor.' 'Fast Castle was surprised and taken, in 1410, by Patrick Dunbar, son of the Earl of March, when Thomas Holden the governor was made prisoner. Patrick Hume of Fast Castle was one of the negotiators of the truce made betwixt Henry VII. and James IV. Cuthbert Hume of Fast Castle fought at Flodden under the standard of his chief, Lord Hume. In the year 1570, this fortress, then belonging to Lord Hume, was attacked by two thousand English, under Sir William Drury, Marischal of Berwick, to whom it surrendered. A party of fourteen English was then left in garrison as a sufficient force to keep it against all Scotland, the situation being so strong.'— Cardonnel's Antiquities.

The Princess Margaret, daughter of Henry VII., after her marriage by proxy at Lamberton, and on her way to join her husband, James IV., lodged a night at Fast Castle.* This fortalice is perched on the brink of a steep and almost perpendicular rock, two hundred feet above the German Ocean, near the southern entrance of the Firth of Forth. The rock [p.172] is nearly isolated, and is only connected with the mainland by a narrow isthmus. Logan was under the belief that this castle contained a vast quantity of hidden treasure, and a curious agreement is still extant between him and Napier of Merchiston, in which that celebrated philosopher consents to make search, by divination, on condition that he was to obtain one-half of all the treasure that should be discovered, and to have his expenses paid whatever might be the result. It was in all probability Logan's possession of this almost unapproachable stronghold that induced the Earl of Gowrie to take such a man into his confidence. His retainer and messenger, Laird Bower, was an old Borderer, who was trained up under David Home of Manderston, commonly called 'Davie the Devil,' and was a greater villain even than his master, but he seems to have been most faithful to his trust. In one of his letters to Gowrie Logan says, 'Your lordship may confide more in this old man, the bearer thereof, my man Laird Bower, more nor in my brother, for I lippen my life and all I have else in his hands, and I trow he would not spare to ride to hell's yett (gate) to pleasure me.'
 
THE CRICHTONS OF FRENDRAUGHT.
INTRODUCTION.
page 173

These remarkable letters throw a very distinct light on the character and object of the plot for the seizure of the King. The conspirators consisted of the two Ruthvens, Logan, and one other person styled right honourable, still unknown, who appears to have been a person of rank, and was probably connected with the royal household. The letters show that the conspirators were determined to revenge the 'Machiavelian' massacre of their dearest friends, and that they especially anticipated an ample revenge for the death of Greysteil, as they termed the late Earl of Gowrie. At the same time there can be no doubt that they were actuated by the promptings of ambition as well as the desire of revenge. The Ruthvens possessed vast power in the country, and as Mr. Burton remarks, 'seizing upon or kidnapping a king, had in that day become almost a constitutional method of effecting a change of ministry in Scotland.' The father of the two young men had in this very way obtained possession for a time of the Government. Logan was to be rewarded for his services by a gift of the rich and beautiful barony of Dirleton, in East Lothian, which had come into the Gowrie family through the marriage of the first Earl with the heiress of the Haliburtons. But the Ruthvens flew at higher game, and aspired at supreme power in the kingdom, which would over and above have enabled them to inflict condign punishment on those who had been the instruments of [p.173] their father's fate. The project was skilfully planned and narrowly missed being successful. James was induced to visit Gowrie House accompanied by a slender train. The garden wall of the mansion was washed by the rapid river Tay, and if the royal attendants had followed without question the route which they were told the King had taken across the Inch, there would have been nothing to prevent the two brothers from carrying James bound and gagged to a boat, which would speedily have conveyed him down to the German Ocean and along the coast to the lonely and almost inaccessible stronghold of Fast Castle. This appears to have been the first object of the conspirators; but how the King was to be treated on reaching that fortalice is an absolute mystery, on which the letters of Logan cast no light. James himself and many of his nobles had a strong suspicion that the conspiracy which had so nearly proved successful had been secretly encouraged by the English Queen, and it must be admitted that various circumstances occurred at the time to strengthen such a suspicion, though the researches of historical students have not yet discovered in the State Paper Office any documents calculated to throw further light on this subject.
 
THE ERSKINES OF BUCHAN AND CARDROSS.
page 137

In 1789 Erskine delivered a speech on behalf of Stockdale, the publisher, who was tried in the Court ofKing's Bench, on an information filed by the Attorney-General, for publishing a pamphlet written by John Logan, the poet, animadverting on the managers of the impeachment against Warren Hastings. Lord Campbell says Erskine's speech in this case is the finest speech ever delivered at the English Bar, and he won a verdict which for ever established the freedom of the press in England. But, perhaps, the most important service which Mr. Erskine rendered to the cause of constitutional liberty was his successful defence, in conjunction with Mr. (afterwards Sir Vicary) Gibbs, of Hardy, Horne Tooke, and Thelwall, for high treason, in 1794. The Government attempted, by their proceedings in these cases, to revive the doctrine of constructive treason, against twelve persons who had belonged to various societies having for their professed object the reform of the House of Commons. Declining to be tried jointly, the Attorney-General, Sir John Scott, afterwards Lord Eldon, selected Thomas Hardy, a shoemaker, as the one against whom he could make the strongest case. He spoke nine hours in opening the case for the prosecution, but his efforts to procure a conviction were signally defeated, to his grievous mortification, by Erskine, who proved that the object of these societies had been advocated by the Earl of Chatham, Mr. Burke, Mr. Pitt himself, and the Duke of Richmond, at that time a [p.137] member of the Government. The speech which he delivered in defence of Hardy was a masterpiece, and well merited the eulogium which Horne Tooke wrote at the end of it, in a copy of Hardy's trial, 'This speech will live for ever.' The Ministry, instead of abandoning the prosecution of the others, against whom an indictment had been brought, were so infatuated as to bring John Horne Tooke, the celebrated philologist, and John Thelwall, successively to trial, but met with a still more signal defeat; and all the other prisoners were acquitted without any evidence being offered against them.
 
THE GORDONS OF METHLIC AND HADDO.
page 349

The accounts of the Earl, which are still preserved among the manuscripts in Haddo House, throwinteresting light both on the Chancellor's personal habits and on the manners of the times. His lordship had evidently been fond of such sports as hunting, hawking, and horse-racing. There are frequent entries of payments made to the men who brought hawks, for hoods and bells, and for a hawk glove, and hawks' meat. A certain Patrick Logan receives £32 (Scots) for 'goeing north with hauks;' on one occasion, 'my Lord goeing to the hauking,' receives £5 16s.; on another, £12 14s. At that time there were horse-races at Leith, which continued to be kept up till a comparatively recent period. They had evidently been patronised by the Chancellor, for in his accounts there appear such items as these—'To my Lord goeing to Leith to his race, £8 8s.;' 'for weighing the men att Leith that rade, £1 8s.;' 'to the man that ran the night before the race, 18s.;' 'item, to the two grooms, drink money art winning the race at Leith, £8 8s.;' 'item, to the Edinburgh officers with the cup, £14;' 'item, to the Smith boy plaitt the running horse feet, 14s.'

 

 

   
 

 

 

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