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The Pentland Rising
by [?]

A PAGE OF HISTORY
1666

‘A cloud of witnesses lyes here,
Who for Christ’s interest did appear.’
Inscription on Battlefield at Rullion Green.

CHAPTER I. THE CAUSES OF THE REVOLT

‘Halt, passenger; take heed what thou dost see,
This tomb doth show for what some men did die.’
Monument, Greyfriars’ Churchyard, Edinburgh,
1661-1668. {2a}

{2a} Theater of Mortality, p. 10; Edin. 1713.

Two hundred years ago a tragedy was enacted in Scotland, the memory whereof has been in great measure lost or obscured by the deep tragedies which followed it. It is, as it were, the evening of the night of persecution–a sort of twilight, dark indeed to us, but light as the noonday when compared with the midnight gloom which followed. This fact, of its being the very threshold of persecution, lends it, however, an additional interest.

The prejudices of the people against Episcopacy were ‘out of measure increased,’ says Bishop Burnet, ‘by the new incumbents who were put in the places of the ejected preachers, and were generally very mean and despicable in all respects. They were the worst preachers I ever heard; they were ignorant to a reproach; and many of them were openly vicious. They . . . were indeed the dreg and refuse of the northern parts. Those of them who arose above contempt or scandal were men of such violent tempers that they were as much hated as the others were despised.’ {2b} It was little to be wondered at, from this account that the country-folk refused to go to the parish church, and chose rather to listen to outed ministers in the fields. But this was not to be allowed, and their persecutors at last fell on the method of calling a roll of the parishioners’ names every Sabbath, and marking a fine of twenty shillings Scots to the name of each absenter. In this way very large debts were incurred by persons altogether unable to pay. Besides this, landlords were fined for their tenants’ absences, tenants for their landlords’, masters for their servants’, servants for their masters’, even though they themselves were perfectly regular in their attendance. And as the curates were allowed to fine with the sanction of any common soldier, it may be imagined that often the pretexts were neither very sufficient nor well proven.

{2b} History of My Own Times, beginning 1660, by Bishop Gilbert Burnet, p. 158.

When the fines could not be paid at once, Bibles, clothes, and household utensils were seized upon, or a number of soldiers, proportionate to his wealth, were quartered on the offender. The coarse and drunken privates filled the houses with woe; snatched the bread from the children to feed their dogs; shocked the principles, scorned the scruples, and blasphemed the religion of their humble hosts; and when they had reduced them to destitution, sold the furniture, and burned down the roof-tree which was consecrated to the peasants by the name of Home. For all this attention each of these soldiers received from his unwilling landlord a certain sum of money per day–three shillings sterling, according to Naphtali. And frequently they were forced to pay quartering money for more men than were in reality ‘cessed on them.’ At that time it was no strange thing to behold a strong man begging for money to pay his fines, and many others who were deep in arrears, or who had attracted attention in some other way, were forced to flee from their homes, and take refuge from arrest and imprisonment among the wild mosses of the uplands. {2c}

{2c} Wodrow’s Church History, Book II. chap. i. sect. I.

One example in particular we may cite:

John Neilson, the Laird of Corsack, a worthy man, was, unfortunately for himself, a Nonconformist. First he was fined in four hundred pounds Scots, and then through cessing he lost nineteen hundred and ninety-three pounds Scots. He was next obliged to leave his house and flee from place to place, during which wanderings he lost his horse. His wife and children were turned out of doors, and then his tenants were fined till they too were almost ruined. As a final stroke, they drove away all his cattle to Glasgow and sold them. {2d} Surely it was time that something were done to alleviate so much sorrow, to overthrow such tyranny.