Page images
PDF
EPUB

screen

Scotland, had only just been peaceful and enlightened days, rescued from the profane hands and owe their elevation to a more of a housemaid, who was about humane eminence in statesman. to light a fire with it, by the ac- ship and jurisprudence. Their cidental intervention of the then history is closely connected with Earl. The precious document, the beginnings of administrative however, had been in no such statesmanship in Scotland, in which jeopardy; but it had been made its distinguished representative, to do duty as an ornamental fire- the founder of its honours, played

in a mock-grate in the a conspicuous part; and round charter-room- —an unfitting, if not him the most interesting associadangerous, situation for so vener- tions of the family naturally centre. able a record. Where archives But before we come to the first were so plentiful that they could Earl of Haddington, we must say be turned to such common uses, a few words about his ancestors. Sir William Fraser might reason- The Haddington family is the ably expect that in the Tynning- eldest cadetal branch of the House hame charter-room he would find of Hamilton, breaking off with himself in “a perfect paradise of John, son of Walter Fitz-Gilbert, parchments;” and his instincts did whose father is the first known not belie him. The Haddington col- Hamilton in Scotland. But who lections had already yielded much was Gilbert ? We have been gento the printer, but Sir William's erally disposed to believe that he research has brought much inter- was of Hamilton in Leicestershire, esting and valuable matter to lightthat the three cinque-foils in the among which may be specified — earliest coat of the Scottish Hammany additional MSS. of the first iltons indicated a connection with Earl ; papers of the sixth Earl of the De Bellamonts, Earls of Leicesthe time of the Union; letters from ter, to whose shield it bore a rethe Honourable Colonel Hamilton, lation of cadency. The "earliest who served at Fontenoy and in ancestor," however, never evades the Seven Years' War; and the Sir William Fraser's scepticism. letter-book of King James V., con- He has banished Sholto Dhutaining despatches to the Pope, glas, the dark-grey man, from the Emperor, the kings of France the line of the Bleeding Heart, and other European sovereigns, and turned his back upon the covering the period from April aboriginal Scot in the Buck's 1529 to December 1532,-a manu- Cleugh. He cannot get rid of script which certainly ought to be the existence of Gilbert, who flourpublished.

ished somewhere in the west of In his history of the Hamiltons Scotland, about the time of Alexof IIaddington, Sir William Fraser ander III.; but he strenuously finds himself upon fresh ground. denies him any kinship with the His researches have been chiefly De Bellamonts, and apparently among the great feudal families, with anybody else. But though with their records of war, public Gilbert did not designate himself and private ; their intrigues, con- of Hamilton, his immediate despiracies, and rebellions, – too scendants did so; and they clung often, alas! their decay and ex- so much to the name that they tinction. The Earls of Haddington, transferred it to their earliest though belonging to a great feudal landed possessions, and they used house, come to the front in more the De Bellamont arms with a

He es

- The

1

mark of cadency. Sir William is self at the Scotch Bar.
positive that they were not De poused the cause of Queen Mary,
Bellamonts: the first Hamiltons by "and suffered loss of almost all
their arms were disposed to assert his goods and gear, frequently
that they were. The one has only placed his life in the utmost dan-
negative evidence to offer; the ger, and freely shed his blood for
others have not much positive: the lawful protection of just
and there we may leave the matter. authority.” The rise of his emi-

In the second generation after nent son, the future earl, improved
Gilbert we find the Haddington the father's fortunes under King
family settled in the county with James VI. He was appointed one
which they have been so long con- of the managers of the queen's
nected as the knights of Inner- property in Scotland after the
wick, a possession which came to departure of the Court, and was
them by marriage from theStewarts, raised to the bench in 1607, under
Earls of Angus. Thomas Ham- new regulations which had shortly
ilton, a younger son of the third before been prescribed.
knight of Innerwick, followed the Lords of Session ordained trial to
law, and acquired the lands of be made of Hamilton's qualifica-
Orchardfield and Priestfield in tions, and appointed a legal theme
Mid-Lothian. His grand-nephew on which the next day he should
Patrick was also possessed for some discourse in Latin, and thereafter
time of the lands of Ewerland or be ready to hear causes and give
Braehead in Cramond, held servitio his opinion." His wife was Eliza-
laværi—the presentation of a ewer beth Heriot of Trabroun, a fam-
and basin for the king to wash ily whose ability was notably il-
his hands in—a tenure older than lustrated about the same period
the time of King James I., and by such representatives as George
quite destructive of the Howison Heriot, and George Buchanan the
legend, to which family the Ham- historian and poet.
iltons sold the lands.

Thomas Hamilton, their elder Thomas Hamilton's son, of the son, was educated at the Edinsame name, was a merchant at burgh High School and at Paris, Edinburgh, and fell with so many where he probably came under his other burgesses at the battle of uncle's influence, which caused a Pinkie. His son was the notable suspicion of Catholic proclivities curé of SS. Cosmus and Damien, to attach to him long afterwards. celebrated in the gossipy pages After his return in 1587, he of Pierre L'Estoile as one of the “haunted the formes and courtis," most active agents in the League, the usual course for an expectant was concerned in the émeute in advocate, and was admitted to the which Brisson the President lost bar at the age of twenty-four in his life, and was literally turned 1587. He was one of a committee out of Paris, partisan in hand, for revising and printing the Scots after Henri IV.'s entry. He re- Acts of Parliament, and after five turned to Scotland as a Papal years' practice, of which we hear emissary, and after some years nothing, was called to the bench of intrigue among the Catholic as Lord Drumcairn, 1592. His nobility was seized and cast into trials on that occasion were much the Tower, where he died in 1610. more strict than those which, as Father Hamilton's elder brother we have seen, his father understudied in Paris, and entered him- went fifteen years afterwards.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

“At that time every candidate for day of January." The original the bench was obliged before obtain- number of judges had been fifteen ing the appointment to submit to the ordeal of a six days' probation, during but the Reformation had inter

-half laymen, half ecclesiastics; which trial was made of his qualifica- fered with the supply of spiritual tions. The first three days the Lordprobationer sat with the Lord Ordi- lords, although in Hamilton's time nary in the Outer House and drew we find the clergy, such as Lindup a report of alledgances, answers, say, parson of Menmuir, still actduplies, heard and proponed by the ing as judges. But the Lords of parties and their procurators.' He was

Session were not wholly consealso required to give his opinion first

crated to the administration of jusupon every question or interlocutor. The other three days were passed in

tice. They were generally statesthe Inner House, where he had to men as well, always councillors of reason on ilk actioun and cause that State, and sometimes discharging shall happen to be called during that executive duties, and always actime.' The Lords then consulted

tive political partisans. A Lord among themselves about his qualifi- of Session might be at the same cations, and after voting thereupon, time both judge and counsel ; reported to the king accordingly.'

and we find Thomas Hamilton In Thomas Hamilton's time the filling at once the office of Lord Court of Session sat in what was of Session and Lord Advocate for then the new Tolbooth, on the the king. It does seem to have present site of the Signet Library. faintly dawned upon the legal As a College, the Lords made their mind of the day that there was own regulations for procedure, some something anomalous in this conof which were primitive enough. junction of oflices--some risk of They generally sat from eight in its interference with the even disthe morning to eleven; and dilatory tribution of public justice. Objecjudges, who had not taken their tion was taken to Lord Advocate seats before the Court bell had Hamilton acting in the double ceased ringing, were punished by capacity of prosecutor and judge; getting “na pairt of the ordinar but the Lords decided that “the contributioun quott and sentence then Lord Advocate and all others silver with the remanent lordis succeeding him in that oflice being the tyme of their division." They ordinary Lords of Session, should sat with locked doors, and even in no wise be reputed or held the advocates, their pleadings fin- parties in the said actions by ocished, were shut out from the de- casion of their oflice; but that he liberative discussions of the Bench. and they should judge, vote, and Provision was made to prevent determine in such causes, unless judges from selling their places in circumstances in which any and to purchase seats upon the other judge might be reputed a bench. Yet we fear that venality party." No doubt the Lords were was not unknown, though it had technically right: the error conprobably had less evil influence sisted in conjoining the two oflices; upon the course of justice than had but the practice continued until the ties of kinship and alliance. the retirement of Nisbet of DirleWe find, however, an instance of ton, who was the last Lord Advoimpartial procedure in a Court cate that had a seat on the bench, order of 1583, which ordains that in 1677.

no great men's causes proceed, As a statesman, Hamilton's first but mean men's until the 7th experience was as a member of that

remarkable body termed the “Oc- bear the brunt of the exasperation tavians,” which marked a notable which James's prelatic proclivities innovation upon Scottish methods called forth from the Presbyof government. It is, however, a terians. They did not respond to mistake to regard the appointment the public clamour for the perseof this Cabinet, for such the Oc- cution of the Catholic Earls of tavians were, as in any way con- Huntly and Errol; and at least nected with a tendency towards two of their number-Seton, the responsible or constitutional gov- President of the Session, and ernment. James had a fondness Hamilton, Lord Drumcairn-were for delegating powers to committees concerned in passing the Act of and commissions: they saved his Falkland, which enabled Huntly natural indolence, they bore vica- and Errol to return to Scotland rious odium, they helped to keep The Octavians also generally condangerous and troublesome ele- curred in the king's desire for ments in check, and above all, an Episcopal settlement; and were they were useful for raising money. accordingly denounced as enemies The legend is that James, seeing by the Presbyterian clergy. They how economically his queen's af- had also a formidable foe in the fairs were managed by commission- courtiers, the officers of James's ers, determined to place the royal own household, who were smartrevenues under eight Lords of ing, doubtless, under the new Exchequer appointed for life. reign of economy, and had found This was done, and among them their power transferred to the was Hamilton, Lord Drumcairn; hands of the Octavians. These and James, in his enthusiasm, “ Cubiculars," as they were called, even went the length of passing did their best to foment enmity for himself a self - denying ordi- between the Octavians and the nance, binding himself to incur no Church, and by a crafty plot led expense without their sanction, to the “Corslet Tumult” in Edinand leaving them the entire con- burgh, which brought the rancortrol of the Court and public ex- ous feelings between James and penditure. It is amusing to read the clergy to a critical issue. the extravagant expectations that Persuading the Octavians that were entertained of the appoint- they were to be murdered by the ment of the Octavians. The author Presbyterian faction, and the of the ‘History of King James the Presbyterian ministers that the Sixth' writes as if the millennium Octavians were bent on forcibly had begun: “The ground should altering the religion of the counyield to the old fertility, godliness try with the aid of Huntly and and charity should be ingraft in his armed vassals, the Cubiculars the hearts of the people, men readily stirred up a riot in Edinshould be in sweet security that burgh, which had the effect of none should be wronged in his driving the king from the city, own possession, in respect the and of ultimately causing the reslaws were profitably to be amen- ignation of the Octavians. Their dit, equally distributed, and jus- place was taken by a large comtice engrafted in the hearts of the mission of twenty-one, of which Senate."

the Octavians were members. To This burst of popularity wassoon, the existence of this commission however, to give place to a natural Sir William Fraser has been the reaction. The Octavians had to first to call attention, and it has

[ocr errors]

hitherto escaped the notice of Regent of the country; new and historians; but it was speedily enlarged powers were hurriedly changed for a fresh board of conferred upon him; and an armed twenty-three, which also included guard of forty horsemen was althe original Octavians. These lotted to him to aid in the exeofficials only held office for a year, cution of the law. His attendand the management of the Ex- ance was also frequently required chequer reverted to the Lord High at London, where he received the Treasurer, as before.

honour of knighthood in 1603. To follow the history of Lord He took part in the deliberation Advocate Hamilton, whether in that year for a union of the two his capacity of legal adviser of countries, and along with Sir the Crown, or of a statesman, Francis Bacon framed the draft would involve in a great measure treaty, which, however, failed to recapitulating the history of Scot recommend itself to either Parlialand in the reigns of James and ment. Again, we find him present Charles, especially in its ecclesi- at the Hampton Court Conference astical controversies. The illegal between James and the Presbyexcuses by which the Presbyterian terian ministers in 1606; and in clergy responded to the king's at- his exposition of the position tempts to force an Episcopal con- which the Crown had taken up stitution upon them, naturally with regard to the Aberdeen Asbrought the Lord Advocate assembly and the recusant clergy, public prosecutor into the front drew upon himself a torrent of of the strife, and he was as much abuse from Andrew Melville, maligned by his opponents as he which astonished even the king, was badly seconded by his friends. who had himself considerable exWe see no grounds for the charge perience of Mr Andrew's oratory. so freely preferred against him of “What is yon he says, my lord ?” being a Papist, though his early the king cried, turning to the training under his uncle may have Archbishop of Canterbury; “I inclined him to view the Scottish think he is calling him out of Catholics with a toleration which the Revelation the Antichristthe extreme Presbyterians could nay, by God! he calleth him the not distinguish from sympathy. It very devil." However disposed fell to his duty to second the Sir Thomas Hamilton might have king's efforts in favour of Episco- been to make matters easy for the pacy, and he doubtless perceived recusant ministers, the attacks that there was a real danger of which they made upon him in both Crown and constitution being the discharge of his office could subordinated to an ideal theocracy, scarcely have admitted of his and the liberty of the subject showing much sympathy with being chained to the car of the their troubles. Church. After the king's depar- The reign of James was rife in ture for London, when James be- sensational State trials in Scotland came swayed by counsels which as well as in England, and in those were often very inapplicable to the in the former country Sir Thomas circumstances of Scotland, the Hamilton had, of course, to bear a Lord Advocate found his diffi- very prominent part. He proseculties greatly increased and his cuted in the case of Margaret duties still more unpalatable. His Hartside, a chambermaid to the position practically became that of queen, who was accused of steal

« PreviousContinue »