Redgauntlet: A Tale Of The Eighteenth Century eBook: Page1

Walter Scott (2000)

  Produced by An Anonymous Volunteer


  by Sir Walter Scott


  Introduction Text Letters I - XIII Chapters I - XXIII Conclusion Notes Glossary

  Original Transcriber's Note: Footnotes in the printed book have beeninserted in the etext in square brackets ("[]") close to the place wherethey were referenced by a suffix in the original text. Text in italicshas been written in capital letters. There are some numbered notes atthe end of the text that are referred to by their numbers with briefnotes, also in square brackets, embedded in the text.


  The Jacobite enthusiasm of the eighteenth century, particularly duringthe rebellion of 1745, afforded a theme, perhaps the finest that couldbe selected for fictitious composition, founded upon real or probableincident. This civil war and its remarkable events were remembered bythe existing generation without any degree of the bitterness of spiritwhich seldom fails to attend internal dissension. The Highlanders, whoformed the principal strength of Charles Edward's army, were an ancientand high-spirited race, peculiar in their habits of war and of peace,brave to romance, and exhibiting a character turning upon points moreadapted to poetry than to the prose of real life. Their prince, young,valiant, patient of fatigue, and despising danger, heading his armyon foot in the most toilsome marches, and defeating a regular forcein three battles--all these were circumstances fascinating to theimagination, and might well be supposed to seduce young and enthusiasticminds to the cause in which they were found united, although wisdom andreason frowned upon the enterprise.

  The adventurous prince, as is well known, proved to be one ofthose personages who distinguish themselves during some single andextraordinarily brilliant period of their lives, like the course of ashooting-star, at which men wonder, as well on account of thebriefness, as the brilliancy of its splendour. A long tract of darknessovershadowed the subsequent life of a man who, in his youth, showedhimself so capable of great undertakings; and, without the painful taskof tracing his course farther, we may say the latter pursuits and habitsof this unhappy prince are those painfully evincing a broken heart,which seeks refuge from its own thoughts in sordid enjoyments.

  Still, however, it was long ere Charles Edward appeared to be, perhapsit was long ere he altogether became, so much degraded from his originalself; as he enjoyed for a time the lustre attending the progress andtermination of his enterprise. Those who thought they discerned in hissubsequent conduct an insensibility to the distresses of his followers,coupled with that egotistical attention to his own interests which hasbeen often attributed to the Stuart family, and which is the naturaleffect of the principles of divine right in which they were brought up,were now generally considered as dissatisfied and splenetic persons,who, displeased with the issue of their adventure and finding themselvesinvolved in the ruins of a falling cause, indulged themselves inundeserved reproaches against their leader. Indeed, such censures wereby no means frequent among those of his followers who, if what wasalleged had been just, had the best right to complain. Far the greaternumber of those unfortunate gentlemen suffered with the most dignifiedpatience, and were either too proud to take notice of ill-treatment anthe part of their prince, or so prudent as to be aware their complaintswould meet with little sympathy from the world. It may be added, thatthe greater part of the banished Jacobites, and those of high rank andconsequence, were not much within reach of the influence of the prince'scharacter and conduct, whether well regulated or otherwise.

  In the meantime that great Jacobite conspiracy, of which theinsurrection of 1745-6 was but a small part precipitated into action onthe failure of a far more general scheme, was resumed and again put intomotion by the Jacobites of England, whose force had never been broken,as they had prudently avoided bringing it into the field. The surprisingeffect which had been produced by small means, in 1745-6, animated theirhopes for more important successes, when the whole nonjuring interestof Britain, identified as it then was with great part of the landedgentlemen, should come forward to finish what had been gallantlyattempted by a few Highland chiefs.

  It is probable, indeed, that the Jacobites of the day were incapable ofconsidering that the very small scale on which the effort was made, wasin one great measure the cause of its unexpected success. The remarkablespeed with which the insurgents marched, the singularly good disciplinewhich they preserved, the union and unanimity which for some timeanimated their councils, were all in a considerable degree producedby the smallness of their numbers. Notwithstanding the discomfitureof Charles Edward, the nonjurors of the period long continued to nurseunlawful schemes, and to drink treasonable toasts, until age stole uponthem. Another generation arose, who did not share the sentiments whichthey cherished; and at length the sparkles of disaffection, which hadlong smouldered, but had never been heated enough to burst into actualflame, became entirely extinguished. But in proportion as the politicalenthusiasm died gradually away among men of ordinary temperament, itinfluenced those of warm imaginations and weak understandings, and hencewild schemes were formed, as desperate as they were adventurous.

  Thus a young Scottishman of rank is said to have stooped so low as toplot the surprisal of St. James's Palace, and the assassination of theroyal family. While these ill-digested and desperate conspiracies wereagitated among the few Jacobites who still adhered with more obstinacyto their purpose, there is no question but that other plots might havebeen brought to an open explosion, had it not suited the policy of SirRobert Walpole rather to prevent or disable the conspirators in theirprojects, than to promulgate the tale of danger, which might thus havebeen believed to be more widely diffused than was really the case.

  In one instance alone this very prudential and humane line of conductwas departed from, and the event seemed to confirm the policy of thegeneral course. Doctor Archibald Cameron, brother of the celebratedDonald Cameron of Lochiel, attainted for the rebellion of 1745, wasfound by a party of soldiers lurking with a comrade in the wilds of LochKatrine five or six years after the battle of Culloden, and was thereseized. There were circumstances in his case, so far as was made knownto the public, which attracted much compassion, and gave to the judicialproceedings against him an appearance of cold-blooded revenge on thepart of government; and the following argument of a zealous Jacobite inhis favour, was received as conclusive by Dr. Johnson and other personswho might pretend to impartiality. Dr. Cameron had never borne arms,although engaged in the Rebellion, but used his medical skill for theservice, indifferently, of the wounded of both parties. His return toScotland was ascribed exclusively to family affairs. His behaviour atthe bar was decent, firm, and respectful. His wife threw herself, onthree different occasions, before George II and the members of hisfamily, was rudely repulsed from their presence, and at length placed,it was said, in the same prison with her husband, and confined withunmanly severity.

  Dr. Cameron was finally executed with all the severities of the law oftreason; and his death remains in popular estimation a dark blot uponthe memory of George II, being almost publicly imputed to a mean andpersonal hatred of Donald Cameron of Lochiel, the sufferer's heroicbrother.

  Yet the fact was that whether the execution of Archibald Cameron waspolitical or otherwise, it might certainly have been justified, hadthe king's ministers so pleased, upon reasons of a public nature. Theunfortunate sufferer had not come to the Highlands solely upon hisprivate affairs, as was the general belief; but it was not judgedprudent by the English ministry to let it be generally known thathe came to inquire about a considerable sum of money which had beenremitted from France to the friends of the e
xiled family. He had also acommission to hold intercourse with the well-known M'Pherson of Cluny,chief of the clan Vourich, whom the Chevalier had left behind at hisdeparture from Scotland in 1746, and who remained during ten years ofproscription and danger, skulking from place to place in the Highlands,and maintaining an uninterrupted correspondence between Charles and hisfriends. That Dr. Cameron should have held a commission to assist thischief in raking together the dispersed embers of disaffection, is initself sufficiently natural, and, considering his political principles,in no respect dishonourable to his memory. But neither ought it to beimputed to George II that he suffered the laws to be enforced againsta person taken in the act of breaking them. When he lost his hazardousgame, Dr. Cameron only paid the forfeit which he must have calculatedupon. The ministers, however, thought it proper to leave Dr. Cameron'snew schemes in concealment, lest, by divulging them, they had indicatedthe channel of communication which, it is now well known, they possessedto all the plots of Charles Edward. But it was equally ill advised andungenerous to sacrifice the character of the king to the policy of theadministration. Both points might have been gained by sparing thelife of Dr. Cameron after conviction, and limiting his punishment toperpetual exile.

  These repeated and successive Jacobite plots rose and burst like bubbleson a fountain; and one of them, at least, the Chevalier judged ofimportance enough to induce him to risk himself within the dangerousprecincts of the British capital. This appears from Dr. King's ANECDOTESOF HIS OWN TIMES.

  'September, 1750.--I received a note from my Lady Primrose, who desiredto see me immediately. As soon as I waited on her, she led me into herdressing-room, and presented me to--' [the Chevalier, doubtless]. 'IfI was surprised to find him there, I was still more astonished when heacquainted me with the motives which had induced him to hazard a journeyto England at this juncture. The impatience of his friends who were inexile had formed a scheme which was impracticable; but although it hadbeen as feasible as they had represented it to him, yet no preparationhad been made, nor was anything ready to carry it into execution. He wassoon convinced that he had been deceived; and, therefore, after a stayin London of five days only, he returned to the place from whence hecame.' Dr. King was in 1750 a keen Jacobite, as may be inferred from thevisit made by him to the prince under such circumstances, and from hisbeing one of that unfortunate person's chosen correspondents. He, aswell as other men of sense and observation, began to despair ofmaking their fortune in the party which they had chosen. It was indeedsufficiently dangerous; for, during the short visit just described,one of Dr. King's servants remarked the stranger's likeness to PrinceCharles, whom he recognized from the common busts.

  The occasion taken for breaking up the Stuart interest we shall tell inDr. King's own words:--'When he (Charles Edward) was in Scotland, he hada mistress whose name was Walkinshaw, and whose sister was at that time,and is still, housekeeper at Leicester House. Some years after he wasreleased from his prison, and conducted out of France, he sent forthis girl, who soon acquired such a dominion over him, that she wasacquainted with all his schemes, and trusted with his most secretcorrespondence. As soon as this was known in England, all those personsof distinction who were attached to him were greatly alarmed: theyimagined that this wench had been placed in his family by the Englishministers; and, considering her sister's situation, they seemed to havesome ground for their suspicion; wherefore, they dispatched a gentlemanto Paris, where the prince then was, who had instructions to insist thatMrs. Walkinshaw should be removed to a convent for a certain term; buther gallant absolutely refused to comply with this demand; and althoughMr. M'Namara, the gentleman who was sent to him, who has a naturaleloquence and an excellent understanding, urged the most cogent reasons,and used all the arts of persuasion, to induce him to part with hismistress, and even proceeded so far as to assure him, according to hisinstructions, that an immediate interruption of all correspondence withhis most powerful friends in England, and, in short, that the ruin ofhis interest, which was now daily increasing, would be the infallibleconsequence of his refusal; yet he continued inflexible, and allM'Namara's entreaties and remonstrances were ineffectual. M'Namarastayed in Paris some days beyond the time prescribed him, endeavouringto reason the prince into a better temper; but finding him obstinatelypersevere in his first answer, he took his leave with concern andindignation, saying, as he passed out, "What has your family done, sir,thus to draw down the vengeance of Heaven on every branch of it, throughso many ages?" It is worthy of remark, that in all the conferences whichM'Namara had with the prince on this occasion, the latter declared thatit was not a violent passion, or indeed any particular regard, whichattached him to Mrs. Walkinshaw and that he could see her removed fromhim without any concern; but he would not receive directions, in respectto his private conduct, from any man alive. When M'Namara returnedto London, and reported the prince's answer to the gentlemen who hademployed him, they were astonished and confounded. However, they soonresolved on the measures which they were to pursue for the future, anddetermined no longer to serve a man who could not be persuaded to servehimself, and chose rather to endanger the lives of his best and mostfaithful friends, than part with an harlot, whom, as he often declared,he neither loved nor esteemed.'

  From this anecdote, the general truth of which is indubitable, theprincipal fault of Charles Edward's temper is sufficiently obvious. Itwas a high sense of his own importance, and an obstinate adherence towhat he had once determined on--qualities which, if he had succeeded inhis bold attempt, gave the nation little room to hope that he would havebeen found free from the love of prerogative and desire of arbitrarypower, which characterized his unhappy grandfather. He gave a notableinstance how far this was the leading feature of his character, when,for no reasonable cause that can be assigned, he placed his own singlewill in opposition to the necessities of France, which, in order topurchase a peace become necessary to the kingdom, was reduced to gratifyBritain by prohibiting the residence of Charles within any part of theFrench dominions. It was in vain that France endeavoured to lessen thedisgrace of this step by making the most flattering offers, in hopesto induce the prince of himself to anticipate this disagreeablealternative, which, if seriously enforced, as it was likely to be, hehad no means whatever of resisting, by leaving the kingdom as of hisown free will. Inspired, however, by the spirit of hereditary obstinacy,Charles preferred a useless resistance to a dignified submission, and,by a series of idle bravadoes, laid the French court under the necessityof arresting their late ally, and sending him to close confinementin the Bastille, from which he was afterwards sent out of the Frenchdominions, much in the manner in which a convict is transported to theplace of his destination.

  In addition to these repeated instances of a rash and inflexible temper,Dr. King also adds faults alleged to belong to the prince's character,of a kind less consonant with his noble birth and high pretensions.He is said by this author to have been avaricious, or parsimonious atleast, to such a degree of meanness, as to fail, even when he hadample means, in relieving the sufferers who had lost their fortune, andsacrificed all in his ill-fated attempt. [The approach is thus expressedby Dr. King, who brings the charge:--'But the most odious part of hischaracter is his love of money, a vice which I do not remember to havebeen imputed by our historians to any of his ancestors, and is thecertain index of a base and little mind. I know it may be urged in hisvindication, that a prince in exile ought to be an economist. And sohe ought; but, nevertheless, his purse should be always open as long asthere is anything in it, to relieve the necessities of his friends andadherents. King Charles II, during his banishment, would have shared thelast pistole in his pocket with his little family. But I have known thisgentleman, with two thousand louis-d'ors in his strong-box, pretend hewas in great distress, and borrow money from a lady in Paris who was notin affluent circumstances. His most faithful servants, who had closelyattended him in all his difficulties, were ill rewarded.'--King'sMEMOIRS.] We must receive, however, with some degree of jealousy
whatis said by Dr. King on this subject, recollecting that he had left atleast, if he did not desert, the standard of the unfortunate prince, andwas not therefore a person who was likely to form the fairest estimateof his virtues and faults. We must also remember that if the exiledprince gave little, he had but little to give, especially consideringhow late he nourished the scheme of another expedition to Scotland, forwhich he was long endeavouring to hoard money.

  The case, also, of Charles Edward must be allowed to have been adifficult one. He had to satisfy numerous persons, who, having losttheir all in his cause, had, with that all, seen the extinction of hopeswhich they accounted nearly as good as certainties; some of these wereperhaps clamorous in their applications, and certainly ill pleased withtheir want of success. Other parts of the Chevalier's conduct may haveafforded grounds for charging him with coldness to the sufferings of hisdevoted followers. One of these was a sentiment which has nothing in itthat is generous, but it was certainly a principle in which the youngprince was trained, and which may be too probably denominated peculiarto his family, educated in all the high notions of passive obedienceand non-resistance. If the unhappy prince gave implicit faith to theprofessions of statesmen holding such notions, which is implied by hiswhole conduct.