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sweet Societies of the Lord's people. Farewell reading, and singing, and praying. Farewell holy and sweet Scriptures, with which many a time my soul hath been refreshed. And to conclude, farewell all created comforts in time. And welcome the sweet fellowship of angels, and the spirits of just men now made perfect, and the sweet fellowship of the first-born. Welcome Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, into whose hands I commit my spirit, for it is thine.
" Sic subscribitur,
" ROBERT MILLER."
MARGARET LAUCHLANE, or LAUGHLISON, or MACLAUCH
LAN, and MARGARET Wilson have obtained in our own
time a celebrity such as neither they nor their persecutors ever dreamed of.
Lord Macaulay, to illustrate the cruel treatment of the Scotch Covenanters under the administration of James II., selected the history of a single fortnight. During this fortnight, John Brown of Priesthill was murdered by Claverhouse. Peter Gillies and John Bryce were tried in Ayrshire by a military tribunal, and in a few hours were convicted, hanged, and flung together into a hole under the gallows. Robert Tom, Thomas Cook, and John Urie were stopped by Major Balfour near Glasgow, and asked if they would pray for King James VII. They gave what seemed to the Major an evasive answer, and he ordered them to be blindfolded; and within an hour after they had been arrested their blood was lapped up by the dogs. In Eskdale a murder of equal atrocity was committed by the laird of Westerhall on a lad, the son of a widowed mother. On the same day Margaret Maclauchlan and Margaret Wilson suffered death for their religion in Wigtownshire. Lord Macaulay describes Claverhouse, in a very different manner from that of the fiction of Sir Walter Scott : "Pre-eminent among the bands which oppressed and wasted these unhappy districts were the dragoons com
manded by John Graham of Claverhouse. The story ran that these wicked men used in their revels to play at the torments of hell, and to call each other by the names of devils and damned souls. The chief of this Tophet, a soldier of distinguished courage and professional skill, but rapacious and profane, of violent temper and of obdurate heart, has left a name which, wherever the Scottish race is settled on the face of the globe, is mentioned with a peculiar energy of hatred.”
These brilliant sentences of the historian stirred up Sheriff Mark Napier, a writer of keen Jacobite sympathies, to take up the defence of Claverhouse in his “ Memoirs of Dundee,” and at the same time to stigmatise the Covenanters in a style of vituperation in which he has no compeer in modern times. The Wigtown martyrs were pronounced to be myths, and the story of their sufferings a fable and a calumny. These assertions were not left unnoticed. His friends and admirers did their best to present them to the world in calmer language. They were speedily examined by a host of writers in quarterly reviews, monthly magazines, and newspapers ; and the result has been, after an investigation almost unparallelled for its thoroughness, that the substantial truth of the story, as presented in the pages of Defoe, the Cloud of Witnesses, Wodrow, Patrick Walker, and Lord Macaulay, has been established beyond dispute.
Two gentlemen have contributed largely to this end-a writer in the Scotsman, believed to be the Rev. Thomas Gordon, D.D., of Newbattle, whose papers, it is much to be regretted, have not been issued to the world in a collected form—and the Rev. Archibald Stewart, D.D., of Glasserton, in his “ History Vindicated in the Case of the Wigtown Martyrs,” second edition, Edinburgh, 1869.
Dr Stewart's book is divided into three chapters. Chapter first treats of previous legislation. He reviews the measures of government by which in a few years the most loyal of subjects were changed into the very opposite. He quotes the instructions which the Council gave to the Commissions sent to traverse the country. If a man owned or did not disown the Apologetic Declaration, he was to be tried and hanged immediately. In the case of women,
" those are to be drowned.” In chapter second he examines Mr Napier's proof on the negative side, and shows it to be inconclusive, and in chapter third reviews the evidence on the affirmative side of the question. He arranges this under five heads-tradition, early pamphlets, earlier histories, minutes of local church courts, and monumeutal
evidence. Under early pamphlets, he quotes one printed in 1703 by Mr Andrew Symson, Episcopalian minister of Kirkinner, Margaret Maclauchlan's parish, at the time of the martyrdom, and written by his son, Mr Matthias Symson, in which a Presbyterian pamphleteer is corrected in his account of the drowning, and the fact admitted, as if witnessed by him : “ They were judicially condemned after the usual solemnities of procedure. The judges were several gentlemen commissioned by authority, of whom Mr D. G., brother to the then L. of Cl. (evidently, Mr David Graham, brother to the then Laird of Claverhouse], was one. The chancellor of Assize (or foreman of the Jury] and clerk of the Court are yet alive.”
Under minutes of the local Church Courts he gives :
(1.) The Minutes of the Presbytery of Wigtown, dated February 10, 1708, and of the Synod of Galloway, October 19, 1708, cnjoining a collection of accounts of the sufferings for religion in the late times of persecution.
(2.) The Minute of the Kirk-session of Kirkinner, April 15, 1711. The part relating to Margaret Maclauchlan is-“ Post preces sederunt, all the members except John M'Culloch, William Hanna, and John Martin, younger in Airles. Inter alia, the minister gave in the account of the sufferings of honest, godly people in the late times, which was read, and is as follows : Margaret Laughlison, of known integrity and piety from her youth, aged about eighty, widow of John Milliken, wright in Drumjargan, was, in or about the year of God 1685, in her own house, taken off her knees in prayer, and carried immediately to prison, and from one prison to another, without the benefit of light to read the Scriptures; was barbarously treated by dragoons who were sent to carry her from Mahirmore to Wigtown; and being sentenced by Sir Robert Grier of Lagg to be drowned at a stake within the flood-mark, just below the town of Wigtown, for conventicle keeping and alleged rebellion, was, according to the said sentence, fixed to the stake till the tide made, and held down within the water by one of the town officers by his halbert at her throat, till she died."
(3.) The Minute of the Kirk-session of Penninghanie, February 19, 1711. The part of the minute relating to the Wilson family is : “Gilbert Wilson of Glenvernock, in Castle Stewart's land, being a man to an excess conform to the guise of the times, and his wife without challenge for her religion, in good condition as to worldly things, with a great stock on a large ground (fit to be a prey), was
harassed for his children who would not conform. They being required to take the Test and hear the curates, refused both; were searched for, fled, and lived in the wild mountains, bogs, and caves. Their parents were charged, on their highest peril, that they should neither harbour them, speak to them, supply them, nor see them ; and the country people were obliged by the terror of the law to pursue them, as well as the soldiers, with hue and cry.
“In February 1685, Thomas Wilson, of sixteen years of age, Margaret Wilson, of eighteen years, Agnes Wilson, of thirteen years, children of the said Gilbert—the said Thomas keeping the mountains, his two sisters, Margaret and Agnes, went secretly to Wigtown to see some friends, were there discovered, taken prisoners, and instantly thrust into the thieves' hole as the greatest malefactors ; whence they were sometimes brought up to the Tolbooth, after a considerable time's imprisonment, where several others were prisoners for the like cause, particularly one Margaret Maclauchlan of Kirkinner parish, a woman of sixty-three years of age.
“After their imprisonment for some considerable time, Mr David Graham, Sheriff, the Laird of Lagg, Major Winram, Captain Strachan, called an assize, indicted these three women, viz., Margaret Maclauchlan, Margaret Wilson, Agnes Wilson, to be guilty of the rebellion at Bothwell Bridge, Airsmoss, twenty field conventicles, and twenty house conventicles. Yet it was well known that none of these women ever were within twenty miles of Bothwell or Airsmoss; and Agnes Wilson, being eight years of age at the time of Airsmoss, could not be deep in rebellion then, nor her sister of thirteen years of age, and twelve years at Bothwell Bridge its time. The assize did sit, and brought them in guilty, and these judges sentenced them to be tied to palisades fixed in the sand, within the flood mark, and there to stand till the flood overflowed them and drowned them.
“They received their sentence without the least discouragement, with a composed smiling countenance, judging it their honour to suffer for Christ's truth, that He is alone King and Head of His Church. Gilbert Wilson, foresaid, got his youngest daughter, Agnes Wilson, out of prison, upon his bond of a hundred pounds sterling, to produce her when called for ; but was obliged to go to Edinburgh for this before it could be obtained. The time they were in prison, no means were unessayed with Margaret Wilson, to persuade her to take the oath of abjuration, and hear the curates, with threatenings and flattery, but without any success.
“Upon the eleventh day of May 1685, these two women, Margaret Maclauchlan and Margaret Wilson, were brought forth to execution. They did put the old woman first into the water, and when the water was overflowing her, they asked Margaret Wilson what she thought of her in that case? She answered, 'What do I see but Christ wrestling there? Think ye that we are sufferers ? No, it is Christ in us, for He sends none a warfare on their own charges.' Margaret Wilson sang Psalm xxv., from the 7th verse, read the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and did pray, and then the water covered her. But before her breath was quite gone, they pulled her up, and held her till she could speak, and then asked her if she would pray for the king. She answered that she wished the salvation of all men, but the damnation of none. Some of her relations being on the place, cried out, “She is willing to conform,' being desirous to save her life at any rate. Upon which Major Winram offered the oath of abjuration to her, either to swear it, or return to the waters. She refused it, saying, 'I will not; I am one of Christ's children ; let me go.' And then they returned her into the water, where she finished her warfare, being a virgin martyr of eighteen years of age, suffering death for her refusing to swear the oath of abjuration and hear the curates.
“ The said Gilbert Wilson was fined for the opinion of his children, harassed with frequent quarterings of soldiers upon him, sometimes a hundred men at once, who lived at discretion on his goods, and that for several years together; and his frequent attendance in the Courts at Wigtown almost every week, at thirteen miles distance, for three years time; riding to Edinburgh on these accounts, so that his losses could not be reckoned and estimated, without doubt, not within five thousand merks, yet for no principle or action of his own ; and died in great poverty lately, a few years hence. His wife, a very aged woman, lives upon the charity of friends. His son Thomas lived to bear arms under king William in Flanders, and the castle of Edinburgh ; but had nothing to enter the ground which they possessed, where he lives to certify the truth of these things, with many others who knew them too well.”
Dr Stewart minutely examines the roll of the Sessions of Kirkinner and Penninghame, and the Presbytery of Wigtown, and shows that the different members had ample opportunities of knowing the truth of the story of the sufferings of the two martyrs which they attested.
Sheriff Napier has replied to Dr Stewart's book in his “ History