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The Life and Diary of Lieut. Col. J. Blackader
Chapter II


THE CAMERONIANS

Their name and origin—Causes of their secession—Their tenets, political and religious—Their sufferings, an apology for their conduct—Their independent and patriotic spirit.

The Regiment in which young Blackader enrolled himself a cadet, was that raised at the Revolution by the Cameronians, under command of the Earl of Angus. It is now the 26th Regiment of the line, British Infantry, and still retains the appellation of the sect from which it was originally formed. Both officers and men were remarkable for the strictness and propriety of their moral conduct, and for the most exemplary attention to the duties of religion, characteristics far from being incompatible, but unhappily too seldom found conjoined with the profession of arms. Their piety became proverbial, and so regular were they, under all emergencies, in keeping up the public exercises of devotion, that they were nicknamed in derision by their enemies, the Psalm-singing Regiment. 1 But their seriousness abated nothing of their courage or their patriotism. No class of subjects was readier to offer their services in defence of their king and country, and none behaved with more gallantry in the field. If they were eminent, for their superior morality, they were no less distinguished by their bravery and enterprise in the day of battle. Dunkeld, Steinkirk, Blenheim, and Ramillies, are names that sufficiently attest their valour, and have immortalised their renown. The peculiar constitution of this Regiment, and the unusual conditions upon which they tendered their services, are perhaps not generally known: And the reader, I am persuaded, will not think it a needless digression, if we dwell a little upon the important events which occasioned its formation. The character and tenets of the religious sect from which it had its name and its origin, are, in the first place, worthy of notice.

The Cameronians, or, as they were sometimes called, the United Societies, or Hill-men, from their mode and place of worship, were a party that separated, about the year 1680, from the main body of the Presbyterians. The designation by which they are still known, was first applied to them as followers of Richard, Cameron, one of their itinerant preachers, who fell in the rencounter at Airs-moss, where he aiid his little hand were surprised and defeated by Bruce of Earls-liall. f Among the earliest causes of this dissension was the King’s indulgence to the ex-parochial clergy, allowing them to preach and exercise, their ministerial functions under certain restrictions. It was this subject that created those violent and contentious debates which inflamed the camp, and ultimately disconcerted the measures, of the Insurgents at Bothwell-Bridge. Some imagined they might conscientiously accept of this liberty with all its restraints, and that it was better to avail themselves of this license, than to continue silent, or incur, by holding conventicles, the penalties of outlawry and rebellion. But the zeal of the Cameronians spurned these courtly terms of comprehension. They looked upon the indulgence as a crafty device, to rivet the chains of submission gradually and imperceptibly, and, by fomenting divisions in the Church, to make them pull down with their own.hands the only remains of freedom that tyranny had left undestroyed. Accepting liberty of worship from the bishop or the crown, they condemned as a criminal acknowledgment of Erastian supremacy, a' base recognition of that Episcopal authority, which, instead of Submitting to, they were bound to extirpate. On these grounds, they conceived themselves obliged to cast out of their fellowship all who were found guilty of such temporizing and dishonourable compliances. There were various other reasons of secession upon which we cannot here enlarge, but the consequence was an irreparable breach in their sentiments and worship.

The Separatists' formed hut a very inconsiderable portion of the Presbyterians, comprehending such of them only as were of a more rigorous and uncompromising temper. Without doubting the integrity of their intentions, we may, in some things, question the propriety of their conduct. They certainly deserve the praise of firmness and consistency, in resisting all attempts, whether by force or stratagem, to impose conditions on their religious liberties, which they abhorred as sinful and degrading. While others were content to exercise their privileges by "royal grant, they had the felicity to preserve their conscience and their worship free and unshackled by oaths or restrictions. But they adopted opinions, and urged matters to dangerous extremes, which were disapproved by their fugitive brethren, and even reprehended by the more sober and deliberate of their own party;

In rejecting the King’s’ authority, they stood distinguished from all other Presbyterians, although the whole body of sufferers have often been falsely and injuriously involved in that aspersion. The "severity with which they interpreted the religious obligations of the national covenants, and the unsocial disdain they cherished towards those who did not choose to go the same length in maintaining the superior and exclusive rights of their own particular system," infused into all their proceedings a spirit of illiberality and intolerance. They dealt their censure with unsparing hand, against such as they alleged had yielded to the sinful defections of the times, or who did not think themselves called upon to strain their resistance to an equal pitch. Many,1 on this score, both indulged and non-indulged, were included in their reprehensions, and solemnly interdicted their community. These narrow and scrupulous jealousies, it is to be regretted, did not altogether abate or subside on the V.T urn of a milder and moire tolerant administration. Whatever grounds they may have had for separation or reproof in times of persecution, when some from policy or weakness might he induced to temporize, there certaiflly existed no valid reason for this apostasy, after the Revolution had proclaimed liberty of conscience, and re-established the church in her ancient privileges. To have then enforced such stern unaccommodating maxims, would have been to perpetuate those very miseries and oppressions from which they themselves displayed so laudable an eagerness, and made such meritorious exertions to be delivered. But though their conduct cannot, in all points, be defended, their excesses, we are convinced, may be explained,—many of them justified by the peculiarity of their circumstances. And while upon this subject, it would be acting unfairly and unjustly to pourtray only their harshest features, or contemplate, exclusively, the darker shades of their character. We ought not to refuse them the advantage of pleading in their own behalf the specialities of their case,—to deprive them of those palliations, or shut them out from the benefit of those sympathies to which the extraordinary difficulties and complicated hardships of their situation fully entitle them. Their worst deeds were greatly exaggerated, and their sentiments misinterpreted. Strangers, ignorant of what they suffered, and mistaking the principles on which they acted, believed them to he those traitors, rebels and murderers which their enemies represented them. Better information would have refuted and dispelled many of thd^e calumnies. Men of candour and humanity, who know their history, will he more disposed to pity, than to censure them. They will treat their foibles with leniency, and throw a veil of charitable construction even over their extravagances. They will see in those indiscretions or crimes of which they were guilty, only the natural result, or rather the unavoidable consequences of their treatment. They, will find their obstinacy to he an honest, but inflexible adherence to what they believed to he the imprescriptible rights of all free-born citizens. They will attribute their rejection of authority, to the abuse of it, on the part of their rulers, and not to any factious dislike of royalty, or a turbulent impatience of order and subordination. They disclaimed the taking of arms, for any other purpose, but that of self-defence; and not until the rigour of government had compelled them to adopt that last and desperate resource. They did not disown the king, until they were persuaded he had forfeited his claim to their allegiance, by perfidiously Violating every solemn and constitutional stipulation. He had assumed a prerogative inconsistent with the safety and freedom of the people, and subversive, both of their natural and civil rights.

They did not openly announce their revolt from government, until they were provoked and exasperated to a degree of madness, by its oppressive exactions and brutal inhumanities. The law, by placing their lives and properties at the mercy of every ruffian soldier, or every hireling informer, had laid them, as it were, under an absolute necessity of entering into leagues and compacts for their mutual security. In the heat and frenzy of their spirits, they published treasonable and sanguinary declarations, denouncing vengeance on their persecutors, and warning them, at their peril, not to molest their worship, or “ stretch forth their hand against them while maintaining the cause and interest of Christ against his enemies.” These principles, hastily and rashly adopted, if taken in the abstract, would have opened a way to all the atrocities of lawless bloodshed, and clandestine murder: But we find them, upon more cool and dispassionate reflection, endeavouring to alter and modify those expressions that were liable to misconstruction. They disown and deprecate the thought of killing any, because of a different persuasion or opinion from them. They were careful to mark the different shades of guilt in their oppressors, distinguishing “betwixt the cruel and blood-thirsty, and the more sober and moderate.” Their chief design seems to have been, to appal their adversaries by threatening admonitions, and at the same time, to throw around their societies the fence of a mysterious and repulsive terror.

These excesses, instead of being viewed in their proper light as the effects of tyrannical violence, were converted into an apology for the most shocking barbarities, and used as a pretext for multiplying those very rigours from which all the mischief had originated. The wretched Cameronians became a butt for the vengeance and fury of the government. They were decried, in edicts and proclamations, as a race to be abhorred by all Christians, and extirpated from the face of the earth. Such as escaped the axe or the dungeon, were outlawed and intercommuned. The state laid them under a political ban. Their character was branded with the mark of general execration, and tainted with a sort of pestilential treason, which rendered their very presence contagious, and spread infection wherever they went. No person was allowed to harbour or conceal them, to correspond, or even to talk with them on the public way, under pain of Higli-Treason, and at the hazard of being prosecuted as equally guilty with the criminal. The military were dispersed over the country to search for, and hunt them like wild beasts of the desert. Spies were ready to give information, and diligent in employing every crafty and insidious artifice to discover their retreats.

Driven, as it were, beyond the pale of civilized society, and the privileges of human beings, they betook themselves to woods, and hills, and solitudes; wandering about like the primitive martyrs, in deserts and mountains, or lurking in the dens and caves of the earth. They rarely ventured from their hiding-places by day, for the hue and cry was instantly raised against them. They met for worship by stealth, and at dead of night. Often, especially in the winter season, they were reduced to incredible hardships for want of shelter and support. Unprovided with sustenance, and not daring to go abroad to seek it, but at the peril of their lives, they endured extremities of hunger and cold, beyond what nature seemed capable to bear.

But though their enemies had vowed their extirpation, and put in practice all the ingenuity of violence and stratagem, it increased, rather than diminished their numbers. Ships, prisons, and gibbets could not exhaust them; nor the sword destroy them, though its edge was doubly whetted by avarice and cruelty. The more they were afflicted, the more they grew and multiplied. They sprung up under the scythe of the mower; and their blood served to water the roots of that plant of renown, which was soon to spread its branches, and cover the land with its peaceful shadow. The murderous edicts levelled against them, never shook their constancy, nor thinned their ranks. They courted the glory of martyrdom with an eagerness that astonished their oppressors. They suffered torture and execution, not only with firmness, but with alacrity; for the sacred justice of their cause had, in their eyes stript the most appalling implements of death of their usual terror and ignominy. The aged seemed to forget their years and infirmities. Parents and relatives felt the obligations of religion, stronger than all the ties of blood, and attachments of life. Women laid aside the timidity and the weakness of their sex. Their very executioners turned rebels to their office: from enemies,, they became converts and associates, ready to offer their necks on the same block, and fall the next victims to the cause they had persecuted.

Thus did these spirited and oppressed fugitives maintain their principles and their party; leaving, in their example, a salutary lesson on the rash and illiberal policy of assailing conscientious opinions by force, or attempting to alter or subdue them by cruelty. They were a remnant that had not bowed the knee to Baal. From the midst of the fiery furnace, they came out untouched, and unchanged in their sentiments. They were resolved, whatever it might cost, to hold fast their integrity,—to vow perpetual hostility, and wage a defensive warfare, against their inhuman spoilers.

Considering their circumstances, it is not surprising that they assumed an attitude of defiance, or spoke in language which their rulers deemed seditious and insulting. The wonder would have been had they acted otherwise,—liad they felt no resentment for past indignities, or expressed no inclination to retaliate. And who, we are tempted to ask, in the same situation, but would have pursued similar steps? Is it possible to put on bowels of compassion towards murderers and incendiaries, or speak of their atrocities with affected tenderness? It is a surer mark of an honest mind, to avow its indignation openly and boldly, to be ingenuous and undisguised in word as well as in deed. If we do discover fierceness in their expressions, or asperities in their temper, we may well suppose that their sensibilities must have been a little impaired, and their kindlier feelings worn off amidst the storms of persecution, and the strife of party contentions.

Taking these' into account, there is a tone of sobriety, of indulgence and forbearance, which we could scarcely have expected, and which may be thought almost incompatible with their stern principles, or the unavoidable irritation of their spirits. Towards the established authorities, they manifested disrespect arid aversion; but this, as we have said, arose from the accumulation of intolerable grievances, of which they saw no prospect either of termination 01* redress. They could not reverence the emblems of official power, when borne by hands that were polluted by extortion, and reeking with human blood. They could not pay reciprocal homage to a government, which had not only refused them the benefits of justice and protection, but driven them beyond the reach of clemency and forgiveness. They could not respect laws that had violently overturned all the fences about their lives, properties, and religion; laws that had delegated a justiciary power to the meanest soldier, and planted the assassin’s dagger in the hand of every mercenary spy; that had ruined their estates by enormous exactions, and laid their conscience under an absolute and .inextricable subjection to the crown. Change of administration produced no relaxation or abatement of their sufferings. To the character of being vindictive, their persecutors added that of being implacable and remorseless in their vengeance.

The history of this sect cannot but excite strong and mingled emotions in every unprejudiced and reflecting mind. While we censure the intemperance of their zeal, or the dangerous extreme to which they pushed the doctrine of self-defence, we must applaud the open and fearless honesty with which they acted. We must admire their courage, their patience and forbearance. Above all, they merit our praise and our gratitude for their enthusiastic love,-*-for their generous and devoted efforts in the cause of civil and religious liberty. They were highly instrumental, under the blessing of Providence, in bringing about that happy change of constitution, which adjusted the long-disputed balance between privilege and prerogative, and settled each by their proper limitations.

We are far from saying, that they are here entitled to engross exclusively the encomiums of posterity. It is an honour which they share in common with hundreds of their countrymen. But it is pleasant to contemplate the unconquerable and incorruptible ardour of this hardy and veteran band, struggling, with success, to rescue their inalienable rights from the iron grasp of tyranny and superstition. While others were making flattering addresses and abject concessions to the throne,—while the degenerate nobles were bowing their necks to the yoke with a disgraceful servility,—while the Scottish Parliament, forgetting the dignity and the glory of their ancient independence, were resigning up the last fragments of their national liberties; a few wretched and harrassed fugitives had the integrity and the boldness to resist with arms, the gigantic encroachments of despotism,— to assert, in the face of every danger, their rights as Christians and as freemen.

Contrasting their conduct with all its extravagance, with the sycophancy of those, who, in a free country, could wear the chains of slaves, and lick the dust at the feet of arbitrary power and insolent usurpation, we need not ask who has the better reason to triumph, and be proud at the comparison. Their example served to keep alive a wholesome spirit of resistance in the nation. It was the hidden leaven that fermented the mass of public opinion. Amidst the solitude of caves and deserts, they fanned the feeble spark of opposition, and cherished on their lonely altars in the wilderness, the vestal fires of expiring liberty; unconscious, perhaps, that the flame was so soon to burst forth, and wrap, not only the British Isles, but the Continent of Europe in the general conflagration. “Their standard on the mountains of Scotland,” says a reverend and elegant writer, “indicated to the vigilant eye of William, that the nation was ripening for a change. They expressed what others thought, uttering the indignation and the groans of a spirited and oppressed people. They investigated and taught, under the guidance of feeling, the reciprocal obligations of kings and subjects,—the duty of self-defence, and of resisting tyrants,—and the generous principle of assisting the oppressed. These subjects, which have been investigated by philosophers in the closet, and adorned with eloquence in the senate, were then illustrated by men of feeling in the field. While Russel and Sidney, and other enlightened patriots in England were plotting against Charles (and James) from a conviction that their right was forfeited, the Cameronians in Scotland, under the same conviction, had the courage to declare war against them. Both the plotters and the warriors fell; but their blood watered the plant of renown, and succeeding ages have eaten the pleasant fruit.”

The part they acted at the Revolution, while it wiped off reproaches from their past conduct, extorted approbation even from their enemies. Their general political principles were recognized by the whole kingdom. Many commended their zeal, their sincerity, and consistency, who had shrunk, with irresolution, from the same dangers, and were then anxious to bury the memory of their delinquencies in silence and forgetfulness. The language they employ in their Memorial to King William for redress of grievances, and them activity in his service, shews that they could be peaceable subjects, as well as factious rebels,—that they could bow with submission to the sceptre when swayed by proper hands, for the good of the people, and the prosperity of religion. We find those turbulent subverters of thrones and authorities, not only acquiescing, without a murmur, in the restoration of magistracy and limited monarchy, but cheerfully expending their lives and fortunes in their support.

“We are represented by our enemies,” say they, “as antipodes to all mankind, enemies to government, and incapable of order: but as their order and cause is diametrically opposite to the institutions and cause of Christ; so they must have little wit and less honesty, who will entertain their reproaches, who are as great rebels to this government, as we avowed ourselves to be to the former. Our sufferings for declining the yoke of malignant tyranny, and Popish usurpation, are generally known; arid all that will be pleased to examine and consider our carriage since the king did first appear in his heroic undertaking to redeem these nations from Popery and slavery, will be forced to acknowledge, we have given as good evidence of our being willing to be subjects to King William, as we gave proof before of our being unwilling to be slaves to King James. For upon the first report of the Prince of Orange’s expedition, we owned his Highness’ quarrel, when the Prelatic Faction were in arms to oppose his coming to help us. We prayed openly for the success of his arms, when, in all the churches, the prayers were for his ruin. We associated ourselves to contribute what we could to the promoting of his interest, and were the first that declared a desire to engage for him, and under him; while they were associating with, and for his enemies. But before we offered to he soldiers, we first made an offer to he subjects. We made a voluntary tender of our subjection in a peculiar petition by ourselves.”

This petition was addressed to the Meeting of Estates of the Kingdom of Scotland, the Noblemen, Barons, and Burgesses, assembled at Edinburgh, for establishing the government, restoring the religion, laws, and liberties of the said Kingdom. After a brief statement of their sufferings, and the reasons why they refused to own allegiance to King James, they proceed:—

“We prostrate ourselves, yet sorrowing under the smart of our still bleeding wounds, at your Honours’ feet, who have a call, a capacity, and we hope, a heart to heal them: And we offer this our humble petition, enforced, By all the formerly felt, presently seen, and, for the future, feared effects and efforts of Popery and tyranny: By the cry of the blood of our murdered brethren: By the slavery of the banished free-horn subjects of this realm: By all the miseries that many forfeited, disinherited, harrassed and wasted families have been reduced to, for adhering to tlie ancient establishment of religion and liberty: And by all the arguments of justice, necessity, and mercy that ever could excite commiseration in men of wisdom, piety, and virtue: Humbly beseeching, and craving of your Honours, now when God hath given you this opportunity of acting for his glory,— the good of the church and nation,—and the happiness of posterity: Now when this kingdom, and all Europe have their eyes upon you, expecting you will acquit yourselves like the representatives of a free nation in redeeming it from slavery, otherwise inevitable, following the noble footsteps of your renowned ancestors, and the example of the present convention and parliament, now sitting in England: That you will proceed without farther delay, to declare the late iniquitous government dissolved, the crown vacant, and James VII. whom we never have owned, and resolve, with many thousands of our countrymen, never again to own, to have really forfeited and deprived himself of all right and title he could ever pretend thereunto: And to provide, that it may never be in the power of any succeeding governor, to aspire unto, or arrive at such a capacity of tyrannizing.

“Moreover, since anarchy and tyranny are equally to be detested, and the nation cannot subsist without a righteous governor; and none can have a nearer claim, or fitter qualifications than His Illustrious Highness the Prince of Orange, whom the Most High both signally owned and honoured to be our deliverer: We cry and crave that King William may be chosen and proclaimed king of Scotland, and that the regal authority may be devolved upon him, with such necessary provisions, limitations, and conditions of compact, as may give just and legal securities for the peace and purity of our religion,—the stability of our laws,—privileges of parliament,—liberties of the people, civil and ecclesiastic ; and thus make our subjection both a clear duty and a comfortable happiness. And we particularly crave, that he and liis successors be bound in the royal oath, to profess, protect and maintain the Protestant religion,—that he restore and confirm by his Princely sanction, the due privileges of the church, and never assume to himself an Erastian supremacy in matters ecclesiastic, nor unbounded prerogative, in civil: Upon these, or the like terms "we tender our allegiance to King William, and hope to give more pregnant proof of our loyalty to his Majesty, in adverse, as well as prosperous providences, than they have done or can do, who profess implicit subjection to absolute authority.”

That their professions of loyalty might not evaporate in idle words, they stood forth in arms to realize their declarations the moment their interposition could be of service. As they had been eminent for their sufferings under tyranny, they were not less conspicuous as the first to take the field in the war of emancipation. “In order,” they continue, “to make good our intentions, we modelled ourselves into companies, that we might be in readiness to offer our assistance. This we did offer, and had the honour done us to be accepted. We were admitted to guard and defend the Honourable Meeting of Estates against all attempts of the Duke of Gordon, Viscount Dundee, and other enemies. Thereafter, understanding that the government required the raising of forces, for its defence, against intestine insurrections, and foreign invasions of the late King James and his accomplices: Upon this occasion, we were the first that offered to furnish a regiment for his Majesty’s service, and accordingly did make up the Earl of Angus’ Regiment of 800 men, all in one day, without beat of drum, or expense of levy-money, having first concerted with Lieutenant Colonel Cleveland, such conditions and provisions as we thought necessary for clearing our conscience, and securing our liberty and safety.” These conditions shall he stated when we come to speak more particularly of the Regiment. Meantime, it will he proper to give some account of the share they took in the Revolution, and the services they rendered the Convention, before they were regularly embodied, or had agreed to any special proposals.


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