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.Olencoe—the most magnificent glen of the Western Highlands of Scotland, the opening into which is herewith represented by an English artist—is held in melancholy remembrance fro the execrable massacre of its inhabitants which took place towards the close of the 17th century We extract the following account of this dreadful doing from Sir Walter Scott's Tales ot a Grandfather, as being the most intelligible which we have seen.]
I am now to call your attention to an action of the Scottish government, which leaves a stain on the memory of King William; although he probably was not aware of the full extent of the baseness, treachery, and cruelty, for which hiscommission was madea cover. I have formerly mentioned, that some disputes arose concerning the distribution of a large sum of money, with which the Earl of Breadalbane was intrusted, to procure, or rather to purchase, a peace in the Highlands. Lord Breadalbane and those with whom he negotiated disagreed, and the English government, becoming suspicious of the intentions of the Highland chiefs to play fast and loose on the occasion, sent forth a proclamation in the month of August 1691, requiring them, and each of them, to submit to government before the first day of January, 1692. After this period, it was announced that those who had not submitted themselves, should be subjected to the extremities of fire and sword.
This proclamation was framed by the Privy Council, under the influence of Sir John Dalrymple, (Master of Stair, as he was called,) whom I have already mentioned as holding the place of Lord Advocate, and who had in 1690 been raised to be Secretary,'of State, in conjunction with Lord Melville. The Master of Stair was at this time an intimate friend of Breadalbane, and it seems that he shared with that nobleman the warm hope and expectation of carrying into execution a plan of retaining a Highland army in the pay of Government, and accomplishing a complete transference of the allegiance of the chiefs to the person of King William. This could not have failed to be a most acceptable piece of service, upon which, if it could be accomplished, the Secretary might justly reckon as a title to his master's further confidence and favour. But when Breadalbane commenced his treaty, he was mortified to find, that, though the Highland chiefs expressed no dislike to King William's money, yet they retained their secret fidelity to King James too strongly to make it safe to assemble them in a military body, as had been proposed. Many chiefs, especially those of the Macdonalds, stood out also for terms, which the Earl of Breadalbane and the Master of Stair considered as extravagant; and the result of the whole was, the. breaking off the treaty, and the publishing of the severe proclamation already mentioned.
Breadalbane and Stair were greatly disappointed and irritated against those chiefs and tribes, who, being refractory on this occasion, had caused a breach of their favourite scheme. Their thoughts were now turned to revenge; and it appears from Stair's correspondence, that he nourished and dwelt upon the secret hope, that several of the most stubborn chiefs would hold out beyond the term appointed for submission, in which case it was determined that the punishment inflicted should be of the most severe and awful description. That all might be in readiness for the meditated operations, a considerable body of troops were kept in readiness at Inverlochy, and elsewhere. These were destined to act against the refractory clans, and the campaign was to take place in the midst of winter, when it was supposed that the season and weather would prevent the Highlanders from expecting an attack.
But the chiefs received information of these hostile intentions, and one by one submitted to government within the appointed period, thus taking away all pretence of acting against them. It is said that they did so by secret orders from King James, who, having penetrated the designs of Stair, directed the chiefs to comply with the proclamation, rather than incur an attack which they had no means of resisting.
The indemnity, which protected so many victims, and excluded both lawyers and soldiers from a profitable job, seems to have created great disturbance in the mind of the Secretary of State. As chief after chief took the oath of allegiance to King William, and one by one put themselves out of danger, the greater became the anxiety of the Master of Stair to find some legal flaw for excluding some of the Lochaber clans from the benefit of the indemnity. Butno opportunity occurred for exercising these kind intentions, excepting in the memorable, but fortunately the solitary instance, of the clan of the Macdonalds of Glencoe. This clan inhabited a valley formed by the river Coe, which falls into Lochleven not far from the head of LochEtive. It is distinguished even in that wild country by the sublimity of the mountains, rocks, and precipices, in which it lies buried. The minds of men are formed by their habitations. The Macdonalds of the Glen were not very numerous, seldom mustering above two hundred armed men; but they were bold and daring to a proverb, confident in the strength of their country, and in the protection and support of their kindred tribes, the Macdonalds of Clanrannld, Glengarry, Keppoch, Ardnamurchan, and others of that powerful name. They also lay near the possessions of the Campbells, to whom, owing to the predatory habits to which they were especially addicted, they were very bad neighbours, so that blood had at different times been spilt between them.
Maclan of Glencoe (this was the patronymic title of the chief of his clan) was a man of a stately and venerable person and aspect. He possessed both courage and sagacity, and was accustomed to be listened to by the neighbouring chieftains, and to take a lead in their deliberations. Maclan had been deeply engaged both in the campaign of Killiecrankie, and in that which followed under General Buchan; and when the insurgent Highland chiefs held a meeting with the Earl of Breadalbane, at a place called Auchallader, in the month of July 1691, for the purpose of arranging an armistice, Mac Ian was present with the rest, and, it is said, taxed Breadalbane with the design of retaining a part of the money lodged in his hands for the pacification of the Highlands. The Earl retorted with vehemence, and charged Maclan with a theft of cattle, committed upon some of his lands by a party from Glencoe. Other causes of oflence took place, in which old feuds were called to recollection; and Mac1an was repeatedly heard to say, he dreaded mischief from no man so much as the Earl of Breadalbane. Yet this unhappy chief was rash enough to stand out to the last moment, and decline to take advantage of King William's indemnity, till the time appointed by the proclamation was well-nigh expired.
The displeasure of the Earl of Breadalbane seems speedily to have communicated itself to the Master of Stair, who, in his correspondence with LieutenantrColonel Hamilton, commanding in the Highlands, expresses the greatest resentment against Maclan of Glencoe, for having, by his interference, helped to mar the bargain between Breadalbane and the Highland chiefs. Accordingly, in a letter of 3d December, the Secretary intimated that government was determined to destroy utterly some of the clans, in order to terrify the others, and that he hoped that, by standing out and refusing to submit under the indemnity, the Macdonalds of Glencoe would fall into the net. This was a month before the time limited by the indemnity, so long did these bloody thoughts occupy the mind of this unprincipled statesman. Ere the term of mercy expired, however. Maclan's own apprehensions, or the advice of friends, dictated to him the necessity of submitting to the same conditions which others had embraced, and he went with his principal followers to take the oath of allegiance to King William. This was a very brief space before the 1st of January, when, by the terms of proclamation, the opportunity of claiming the indemnity was to expire. Maclan was, therefore, much alarmed to find that Colonel Hill, the governor of Fort William, to whom he tendered his oath of allegiance, had no power to receive it, being a military, and not a civil officer. Colonel Hill, however, had sympathy with the distress and even tears of the old chieftain, and gave him a letter to Sir Colin Campbell of Aid