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Jacobite Risings

The Jacobite Rebellions in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century form one of the most dramatic and highly romanticised chapters in British History. Jacobites (from the latin Jacobus, James) was the name given after the revolution of 1688 to the adherents, first of the exiled English king James II, then of his descendants, and after the extinction of the latter in 1807, of the descendants of Charles I, ie of the exiled house of Stuart. The history of the Jacobites, culminating in the risings of 1715 and 1745, is part of the general history of England and especially of Scotland, in which country they were comparatively more numerous and more active, while there was also a large number of Jacobites in Ireland. They were recruited largely, but not solely, from among the Roman Catholics.

The Jacobites should not be confused with the Jacobins, who were in many respects of antithetical view. The Jacobin Clubs sprung up throughout Paris and the provinces in 1789 during the French Revolution. The Jacobin Clubs were so named having been founded near the Dominican (friar) convent at the church of Saint-Jacques (L. Jacobus) in Paris. The Jacobin clubs were closed soon after Robespierre was executed in 1794, but not before they became synonomous with revolutionary fervor and fear.

The union of the crowns had taken place in 1603, when Elizabeth I died and was succeeded by James VI of Scotland, who also became James I of England. From that point on the kingdoms of England and Scotland were ruled by a single monarch, but through separate governmental systems. The remoteness of Scotland from the center of power in London meant that the king was an 'absentee' monarch.

1689 - The First Jacobite Rising

John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, supported James II of England when the Scotch Parliament had taken the part of William of Orange. In 1689 he defied the Parliament, marched out of Edinburgh with his followers, and began the long "Jacobite" rebellion. From the middle of April 1689 till midsummer Dundee was gathering the clansmen, raiding, and evading battle with any superior KiiiiecranMe, body of troops. James was now in Ireland, promising reinforcements ; but all that arrived, in the middle of July, was a troop of three hundred badly armed and badly disciplined Irish. Dundee felt that if his Highlanders were to be kept together at all, a blow must be struck. Dundee found his opportunity at the pass of Killiecrankie (27 July 1689). The battle was short. The Highlanders, holding the higher ground on the hillside, burst upon the regulars with one irresistible charge and scattered them in total rout; but a bullet killed Dundee as he was dashing forward at the head of the small troop of Jacobite cavalry. The victory itself was complete, but Dundee's fall made it entirely useless. One after another, disgusted chiefs went home with their clansmen.

The military danger in Scotland was at an end. In fact, even if Dundee had not been slain he could never have done much more than maintain a state of alarm and unrest, without receiving efficient reinforcements which would never have been forthcoming. Like Montrose, he would have found, as he himself very well knew, that the Highlanders, fighting under the clan system, might perform astonishing achievements, but could never be held together for the prolonged campaigning necessary to a conquest of the Lowlands.

1696 - The Second Jacobite Rising

In 1696 the revival of Jacobite hopes was signalised by what is known as Barclay's plot. What may be called a legitimate Jacobite design was formed, for an invasion of England by French troops, a plan which seemed to be rendered practicable by the absence of the main English fleet in the Mediterranean. The young duke of Berwick, an illegitimate son of James by Arabella Churchill, Marlborough's sister, was sent over secretly to concert measures with the English Jacobites. The plot fell through, because the French required an English rising as the first step, preliminary to the actual invasion, whereas the English insisted that the invasion was a necessary preliminary to the rising.

But onto this scheme had been grafted an unauthorised plan which recalls the plots of Queen Elizabeth's reign, for the assassination of William when hunting at Richmond. This was the device of one of the Jacobite agents, Sir George Barclay. Ssome of the conspirators were arrested. William, however, carefully abstained from pushing inquiries. Only those who were palpably connected with the plan of assassination were punished; the mere fact that many suspected persons were allowed to go free caused them to be suspected in their turn by their fellow-conspirators. After the detection of the plot neither a rising nor an invasion was possible.

The threat of invasion created a demand for the return of the fleet from the Mediterranean. Its recall set free the French fleet; An unlucky the release of the French fleet not only reopened by-product. the French attack in Spain but transferred the duke of Savoy from the side of the allies to the side of the French king; and the adhesion of Savoy enabled Louis by the beginning of the autumn to procure from the emperor and the king of Spain a suspension of hostilities in Italy which set free a mass of troops for operations in other quarters.

1708 - The Third Jacobite Rising

In the last days of August, 1701, the new Grand Alliance against France was concluded; and a few days later, by the deathbed of King James II, his son was recognised by Louis XIV as successor to the English Crown. The "indignity" (the word is Bentley's) filled all England with wrath. In January, 1702, was passed, together with an Act attainting the Pretender, the Abjuration Act, which made it obligatory to abjure him and to swear fidelity to the King and his heirs according to the Act of Settlement. Shortly afterwards (March 8) King William died, and the hopes of the Stewarts passed to his cousin James, the 'Old Pretender' (Pretender in the sense of having pretensions to the throne; Old to distinguish him from his son Charles, the 'Young Pretender').

The passing of Acts of Union by both the English and Scottish Parliaments led to the creation on 1 May 1707 of the United Kingdom of Great Britain. The Parliament of the United Kingdom met for the first time in October 1707. In 1707 French policy, naturally, was to cause the English to remove their troops from the Low Countries, and to embroil England in a civil war with Scotland on the cheapest terms possible, but everything in France was executed in a dawdling inefficient way when it was a question of aiding the Jacobites. Jealousies, suspicions, delays, and ill-concealed intrigues were the mark of every Jacobite attempt from 1707 to 1759. Spies were never lacking. Had James landed in Moidart, the clans would have joined him and swept the waverers forward with their avalanche. But the Presbyterians wished for a landing at Kirkcudbright, the Lowlanders at Montrose or in the Firth of Forth. No Franco-Jacobite enterprise ever excelled in imbecility that of 1708, when, if the king had landed with only his valet, says Ker of Kersland, the country would have risen for him. But on the 25th of Masch the Jacobites in Edinburgh learned that Sir George Byng had simply frightened the French fleet away.

1715 - The Fourth Jacobite Rising

The premature death of Queen Anne in her forty-ninth year (August 1, 1714) disappointed the vague hopes of James founded upon her affection for him. The English Tories feared to move for a Roman Catholic claimant, and preferred to assume that a Hanoverian dynasty would immediately collapse. James countered George I's accession with no more effectual measure than a proclamation (August 29, 1714) asserting his hereditary right. Early in April, 1715, Bolingbroke fled to Paris. On June 10 the Commons resolved to impeach him; and, there being no longer need for caution, he accepted (July) the seals as James' Secretary of State.

The Government showed none of the lethargy of 1708. On July 20, 1715, the royal assent was given to an "Act for preventing tumults," which obliged an assemblage of twelve or more persons to disperse upon proclamation by a single magistrate. On July 23 the Habeas Corpus Act was suspended. The Duke of Argyll, commanding-in-chief, set out thither from Edinburgh on September 16, and found himself at the head of some 1800 men. When George I began his reign by unceremoniously setting his face against the Tories and dismissing John Erskine, Earl of Mar, from the Scotch Secretaryship, he supplied the Jacobites with a leader. In September 1715, the fiercely Jacobite Earl of Mar raised the Stewart standard at Braemar Castle. Just eight days later, he captured Perth, where he gathered an army of over 10,000 men, drawn mostly from the Episcopalians of north-east Scotland and from the Highlands, but Mar dithered until he lost the military advantage. There was an indecisive battle at Sheriffmuir in November, but by the time the Old Pretender arrived the following month 6000 veteran Dutch troops had reinforced Argyll. James arrived in Scotland to head a beaten cause, and on the 4th of February, 1716 left Scotland never to return. By July 1716 the Jacobite leaders had made their escape to France. With the rising of 1715 episcopalian Jacobitism ceased to have any significance as a political force.

The Government had no sooner got the Fifteen over than they put things in train for the Forty-five.

1745 - The Fifth Jacobite Rising

Severe punishment was dealt out to those who had placed the Union and the Hanoverian Succession in jeopardy. An Act (June 26, 1716) forbade the inhabitants (except peers and commoners qualified to exercise the parliamentary franchise) of all counties north of the Forth and Clyde estuaries (except Fife, Clackmannan and Kinross) to carry arms on or after November 1,1716, and empowered the Lords Lieutenant to appoint centers for the surrender of arms, and to pay the full value of their forfeited weapons to those who had remained loyal in the late rebellion. The Act also directed that after August 1, 1717, the claim of a superior upon his tenants for " hosting, hunting, watching, and warding " should be commuted in money. But in this, and in the attempt to disarm them, the Act had little effect upon the clans most deeply tinged with Jacobitism. The Disarming Act of 1716 had failed in effect. The loyal clans, numbered at 10,000 men, had more or less obeyed the injunction to disarm ; the disloyal, estimated at 12,000 in number, had surrendered old and useless arms, their effective weapons remaining hidden and within reach.

On May 31, 1725, a new Disarming Act received the royal assent. The surrender of arms in the shires scheduled in the Act of 1716 was ordered under the penalty of forcible enlistment for military service in the colonies; women concealing arms were liable to two years' imprisonment and a fine not exceeding .100; peers, their sons, and commoners qualified to vote for or sit as Members of Parliament, were exempt from the Act. The disarmament of the disaffected clans was undertaken systematically, but, as the future proved, not effectually.

For a generation after the '15 the Union was not seriously assailed. Jacobitism never again rallied the forces which had been controlled so inefficiently. As the material benefits of the Union were recognised, the Lowlands were tempted to break away from the separatists ; and the Stewart cause found support chiefly among the clans, who correctly interpreted the Act of 1716 as the beginning of a determined attack upon their distinctive polity. Owing to a variety of causes Jacobitism began to lose ground after the accession of George I and the suppression of the revolt of 1715; and the total failure of the rising of 1745 may be said to mark its end as a serious political force.

The common interests of France and Great Britain had isolated the Pretender in Italy for more than twenty years. Walpole declared war upon Spain (October 19, 1739), and the death of the Emperor Charles VI, a year later, opened a wider warfare. The crisis created by the Emperor's death caused France and Great Britain to drift apart; while the fall of Walpole (February 2, 1742) and the death of Cardinal Fleury (January 29, 1743) surrendered both countries to warlike influences. So soon as war with Spain seemed imminent, and Walpole's position precarious, Jacobite intrigues were again set on foot. Breaking his neutrality, George II placed himself at the head of a Pragmatic Army in the Netherlands, and fought the French at Dettingen (June 27, 1743).

The Jacobite uprising of 1745, led by James's dashing son, Charles Edward Stewart (known as 'Bonnie Prince Charlie'), had little chance of success. France tried to disturb the Hanoverian government by helping the Jacobites. The Old Pretender was so intemperate that he was unfit for an active campaign, but his son Charles James Edward Stuart (known as "the Young Pretender") landed in Scotland in July, 1745, with seven followers, while a French force of 15,000 men stood ready to cross to England at the first favorable moment. As so often before in English history, the winds fought for England, driving the French transports on shore, and compelling delay until fresh ones could be provided. "Evidently," said the French commander, "the winds are not Jacobites."

Throughout the population of England there was through the whole campaign, a strange carelessness as to which side should prove victorious. The Revolution had been, comparatively speaking, an aristocratic movement. It had moved the power from the Crown only to put it in the hands of the nobles. Parliament was so far from being an adequate representative body, that the disputes carried on in it excited no very warm interest in the nation at large. At times indeed it was necessary for the Opposition to excite the people by some national cry; but that Opposition had uniformly employed the most violent language against the Hanoverian influence and the minister of the Hanoverian King. Such partial views therefore the people had been allowed of what was going on among their governors had all tended rather to direct the loyalty, which was then so inherent a characteristic of the English, towards the exiled house. Except in the matter of religion, the people at large were able to discover but little difference whether their king was a Stuart or a Guelph.

The class who had gained by the Revolution was that class which Walpole and Walpole's policy had chiefly favored the middle class; but as usual the middle class was apathetic and slow to risk anything unless for some personal object. At first therefore it was the Government, unaided by the people, which had to check the insurrection. Afterwards the aristocracy offered, though in a very selfish manner, to come forward, and some towns, especially in Scotland, awoke to their responsibilities, but on the whole it was the Government alone which had to act by means of its soldiers, and England had been stripped of soldiers for its foreign wars.

The Prince won the heart of the Highlanders by wearing their dress and marching at the head of the second division, as strong and unwearied as the best among them, for he was gifted with a fine athletic body, which he had further trained by constant exercise. His carriage he insisted upon offering to the aged Lord Pitsligo. His care for his followers, of which this is an instance, tended much to endear him to them; he was at this part of his life adorned with many of the best graces of a king; his clemency was the constant complaint of his sterner counsellors. It is said indeed to have encouraged more than one attempt at assassination. Towards his enemy, the Elector as he called him, he was also studiously merciful and dignified. In all negotiations with his followers or with the French the safety of the Hanoverian Elector and his family was bargained for.

The Pretender rallied to his standard 10,000 Scotchmen, mostly Highlanders, and captured Edinburgh, thus securing a supply of arms. After waiting in vain for the French, he invaded England by the western route through Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Lancashire. After a decisive victory over government forces at Prestonpans, Charles made a spectacular advance into England, getting as far as Derby. London was in a state of panic: its shops were closed. But Derby was as far south as Charles got. When he reached Derby (only one hundred and twenty-seven miles from London) he found himself threatened by three armies, from the south, north, and east respectively. His own forces were greatly diminished by desertion, and he had to retreat northward. On December 6, threatened by superior forces, the Jacobites retreated to Scotland.

The Duke of Cumberland was sent in pursuit and after skirmishes at Penrith and Bannockburn, the two armies met on Culloden Moor, near Inverness, on 16 April 1746. Outnumbered and outgunned, the Jacobites were swept from the field, losing over 1200 men compared to Cumberland's 300 or so. After the battle, many of the wounded Jacobites were slaughtered, an atrocity that earned Cumberland the nickname 'Butcher'. For five months Charles wandered over Scotland as a fugitive without betrayal by his loyal adherents, although a reward of 30,000 was placed upon his head. He was then received on board a French frigate, and ultimately found a refuge at Rome, where he died in 1788, after a long career of drunkenness and vice. His later disreputable life, and his brother's acceptance of a Cardinal's hat (July 3, 1747), extinguished Jacobitism as a national force.

Severe punishment was inflicted upon those who took part in this uprising. Three peers and seventy-three commissioned officers were executed, and many of the rebels were transported to America; but after a year and two months an Act of Indemnity was passed for most of the survivors uprising of the rebellion.

Ample opportunity remained for further vengeance; but the law claimed only one more victim, Archibald Cameron, implicated in the hare-brained Elibank Plot, who was executed on June 7, 1753, under the Attainder of 1746. With the Elibank Plot, serious only by reason of Frederick the Great's suspected connivance, Jacobitism as an active force expired. It had failed as an effective national movement in protest against the Union. It had failed as a weapon in the hand of European Powers, who, employing it for their own ends, had the opportunity to impede Great Britain in the attainment of her own. Freed from the incubus of civil commotion, Scotland realised the material prosperity which had tempted her adherence to the Union. England, on her part, benefited not merely by the conversion of a suspicious neighbour, but obtained a valuable partner in the development of Greater Britain, the most signal creation of the century in which the permanence of Great Britain was for a time in jeopardy.

After the Fifth Jacobite Rising

It was determined that the Scottish Highlands should no longer be left in a condition which invited Jacobite intrigues. The Highlanders were forbidden to organize military forces, and to wear their peculiar dress, which fostered their clannish and alien spirit. The peculiar jurisdiction of the Highland chiefs, which had outlived almost all other remnants of feudalism in Great Britain, was abolished. Strangely enough, it was found that the best way of pacifying the Highlands was to enroll Highlanders for the military service of England, in special regiments, thus allowing free play to their fighting instincts. The Highland Watch, or police, had been disbanded after the '15. Six companies were raised and in 1739 were embodied as a regiment of the Line, the 42nd (Black Watch). It was the good fortune of England to enlist the commercial ambition of the Lowlands and the military aptitude of the Highlands in behalf of an Empire which both had entered reluctantly.

In dress, tongue, and polity the Highlands stood apart - the "barbarous part of the island, hitherto a noxious load upon the whole," as a Scotsman described them in 1747. The Union of 1707 represented a compact between two races whose political institutions, differing in particulars, were traceable to a common origin. But, if the Union was to cover both kingdoms, the Highlands needed to be purged of characteristics which made one-half of Scotland foreign to the other. A policy of harmonisation was therefore attempted.

The first of the legislative measures to this end was a Disarming Act (August 12, 1746), that of 1725 having expired. While re-enacting the procedure whereby to procure surrender of arms, the Act differed from its predecessor in two particulars. It offered a fine of 15 sterling alternative to military service in America for those convicted of bearing arms - a concession likely to relieve few. The second point of difference concerned all. Under penalty of imprisonment for six months for the first, and transportation for seven years for a second offence, it was forbidden from August 1, 1747, to man or boy in Scotland (the King's forces excepted) to wear "the plaid, philebeg or little kilt, trowse, shoulder-belts, tartan or party-coloured plaid or stuff for great-coats or for upper coats." The period of grace proved inadequate and was extended (landowners and their sons excepted) to August 1, 1748, and eventually to December 25, 1748, for the plaid and kilt, and to August 1, 1749, for the other proscribed habiliments, under penalty of enforced enlistment.

More deep-reaching in purpose were legislative measures which removed survivals of feudalism long since discarded in England, where jurisdictions interfering between the Crown and its subjects had been abolished. In Scotland the provincial administration of justice in the Lowlands was still the heritable privilege of individuals, and its exercise a source of emolument. In the Highlands tenure "in ward" permitted the chiefs to require the military service of their tenants, and prevailed in spite of the licence granted by the Disarming Act of 1716 to commute the claim for money. Two Bills were framed for the abolition of these survivals of medievalism ; and, on June 17, 1747, both received the royal assent. The first abolished (from March 25, 1748) all heritable offices of justiciary, regalities, baillieships, constabularies (the High Constable of Scotland excepted), sheriffships, stewartries, and vested them in the Crown. The Courts of Barony were restricted to jurisdiction in minor charges of assault involving a maximum penalty of 1 sterling or one month's imprisonment, and to civil causes where the debt or damages at issue (the recovery of rent excepted) did not exceed 2 sterling. The second Act abolished tenure "in ward " from March 25, 1748. Tenures "in ward" of the Crown were converted into tenures "in blanch," and of superiors below the Crown into tenures "in feu," the amount of the feu-duty or rent being left to agreement according to a rule to be laid down by the Court of Session.


In 1765 Horace Walpole said that "Jacobitism, the concealed mother of the latter (i.e. Toryism), was extinct," but as a sentiment it remained for some lime longer. In 1750, during a strike of coal workers at Elswick, James III was proclaimed king; in 1780 certain persons walked out of the Roman Catholic Church at Hexham when George III was prayed for; and as late as 1784 a Jacobite rising was talked about. Northumberland was thus a Jacobite stronghold; and in Manchester, where in 1777 according to an American observer Jacobitism "is openly professed," a Jacobite rendezvous known as " John Shaw's Club " lasted from 1735 to 1892. North Wales was another Jacobite center. The "Cycle of the White Rose " - the white rose being the badge of the Stuarts - composed of members of the principal Welsh families around Wrexham, including the Williams-Wynns of Wynnslay, lasted from 1710 until some time between 1850 and 1860. Jacobite traditions also lingered among the great families of the Scottish Highlands; the last person to suffer death as a Jacobite was Archibald Cameron, a son of Cameron of Lochiel, who was executed in 1753. Dr Johnson's Jacobite sympathies are well known, and on the death of Victor Emmanuel I., the ex-king of Sardinia, in 1824, Lord Liverpool wrote to Canning saying "there are those who think that the ex-king was the lawful king of Great Britain." Until the accession of King Edward VII, finger-bowls were not placed upon the royal dinner-table, because in former times those who secretly sympathized with the Jacobites were in the habit of drinking to the "king over the water".

The romantic side of Jacobitism was stimulated by Sir Walter Scott's "Waverley", and many Jacobite poems were written during the 1910 century. The chief collections of Jacobite poems are: Charles Mackay's Jacobite Songs and Ballads of Scotland, 1688-1746. wttk Appendix of Modern Jacobite Songs (1861); G. S. Macquoid's Jacobite Sonfi and Ballads (1888); and English Jacobite Ballads, edited by A. B. Grosart from the Towncley manuscripts (1877).

Upon the death of Henry Stuart, Cardinal York, the last of James II's descendants, in 1807, the rightful occupant of the British throne according to legitimist principles was to be found among the descendants of Henrietta, daughter of Charles I, who married Philip I., duke of Orleans. Henrietta's daughter, Anne Marie (1660-1728), became the wife of Victor Amadeus II, duke of Savoy, afterwards king of Sardinia, her son was King Charles Emmanuel III, and her grandson Victor Amadeus III. The latter's son, King Victor Emmanuel I., left no sons, and his eldest daughter, Marie Beatrice, married Francis IV, duke of Modcna, whose son Ferdinand (d. 1849) left an only daughter, Marie Therese (b. 1849). This lady, the wife of Prince Louis of Bavaria, was in 1910 the senior member of the Stuart family, and according to the legitimists the rightful sovereign of Great Britain and Ireland.

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Page last modified: 03-08-2012 19:22:52 ZULU