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of July Porteous was arraigned, on was Duncan Forbes of Culloden, and the charge of murder, before the High Court solicitor general was Charles Erskine of of Justiciary, the supreme criminal tribunal Tinwald. These four politicians practi. in Scotland. The charge against him was cally controlled the administration of twofold: first, causing the men under his Scotland. But they had to contend command to fire upon the crowd, and sec. against a vigorous opposition, especially ondly, firing with his own hand and killing from the Scottish peers, which had been one of the crowd, a man named Charles growing in strength ever since the genHusband. His defence was that he had erai election of 1734.
In that year, at neither ordered his men to fire, nor fired the election of the sixteen representative himself, but had merely threatened the peers, a riot had been expected, and a reg. people when they became unruly. Twenty-iment of soldiers was drawn up in the eight witnesses were examined for the courtyard of Holyrood Palace, to the prosecution, merchants of the city, profes. great indignation of the opposition candi. sional men, servants, and young men of dates, who protested that an attempt was fashion, who had witnessed the scene being made to intimidate them by military from the windows of the lofty tenements force. The ministerial candidates were of the Grassmarket, at that time an aris. all chosen, but months after, when Parlia. tocratic quarter of Edinburgh. The effect ment met, the feeling was as bitter as of this evidence was to prove that Porteous ever, and long debates took place regardhad urged his men to fire. “Fire, anding illegal methods which were said to be damned to you,” were the words which have been employed at the election. “ The several witnesses swore they had heard eyes of all England,” says Tindal, “and, him use. There was also strong evidence indeed, of a great part of Europe, were to the effect that he had snatched a fire- now fixed upon the proceedings of the lock from one of the guard and discharged House of Peers with regard to the election it at Husband. The testimony of the of the Scotch peers. These debates witnesses for the defence, sixteen in num. came to nothing, but the influence of the ber, was mainly that they had not heard government was from that time so much any orders to fire, and had not seen Por- weakened in Scotland that, though anxteous himself discharge a musket. The ious to support the authority of the law by jury brought in a verdict of guilty, and saving Porteous, whose offence they rePorteous was sentenced to be hanged on garded as merely an excess of zeal in the Wednesday, the 8th of September. performance of his duty, the ministers
The sentence was heard with immense were afraid to grant the prayer of his satisfaction in Edinburgh, for the citizens petition. Another petition was therefore regarded Porteous simply as a brutal prepared at the same time, which the min. murderer. But he was advised to appeal istry privately agreed to support, on conto Queen Caroline, who, owing to the dition that the opposition as well as the king's absence on the Continent, repre- friends of the government should sign it. sented the crown at this time. The peti- This condition, which was kept as a protion which Porteous addressed to her found secret at the time, was insisted on Majesty might have been disregarded, but lest the opposition should make political it was backed up by another and more capital out of the reprieve of Porteous, influential application for mercy. It is which, it was well known, would be highly perhaps unnecessary to mention that, in unpopular in Scotland. Signatures were, 1736, Walpole was struggling against that therefore, eagerly canvassed for, and the powerful combination which, a few years petition bears the names of about fifty later, succeeded in driving him from office; persons of high social position, of whom but the events which led to the respite of no less than fifteen were peers. Porteous, as disclosed in the official pa- Owing, probably, to the time which had pers in the Record Office, can hardly be been occupied in obtaining signatures, it understood without some explanation of was not until the 25th of August that the the position of the ministry in Scotland. petitions were finally sent up to London.
The chief adviser of Walpole regarding On that day, the lord justice clerk writes Scottish affairs was Archibald Campbell, to the Duke of Newcastle : “At the deEarl of Ilay and brother of John, Duke of sire of persons of quality and distinction, Argyle and Greenwich. Andrew Fletcher I have taken the liberty of troubling your of Milton, the lord justice clerk of Grace with the enclosed petition to her Scotland, an acute lawyer and an able Majesty, in favor of John Porteous, now politician, acted as the confidential corre- under sentence of death, together with a spondent of Lord Ilay. The lord advocate | petition from himself to the queen, and it
is their request your Grace may present I was enacted is well known. Every trav, them to her Majesty as soon as may be eller who has visited the ancient capital of convenient, because the 8th of September Scotland will remember the long, steep is the day fixed for the execution.” Sir thoroughfare which ascends from the Walter Scott, with the genuine instinct of Palace of Holyrood to the Castle Hill. a great master in the art of writing fiction, In 1736 the part of that picturesque street has described, in the fourth chapter of which lay next to the palace was known as the “Heart of Midlothian,” how a crowd the suburb of Canongate, at the western assembled at the place of execution “pre-termination of which stood a massive pared to enjoy the scene of retaliation in gateway called the Netherbow Port. Betriumph, silent and decent, though stern yond this gateway the city began, and the and relentless," and how, when the hour thoroughfare was known as the High for punishing the criminal had passed, Street. In the centre of the High Street, " the news, which the magistrates had and at the north-west corner of the Church almost hesitated to communicate to them, of Saint Giles, which still remains, stood
at length announced, and spread the Tolbooth, the gaol in which Porteous among the spectators with a rapidity like was confined. Beyond the Tolbooth, and lightning. A reprieve from the secretary sloping upwards towards the Castle, was of state's office, under the hand of his the Lawnmarket, from which a short, Grace the Duke of Newcastle, had arrived, steep street, the Westbow, led down into intimating the pleasure of Queen Caroline the Grassmarket, where the execution of (regent of the kingdom during the absence Wilson had taken place, and where the of George II. on the Continent) that the City Guard, under command of Porteous, execution of the sentence of death pro- bad fired upon the crowd. nounced against John Porteous, late Cap- On the evening of Tuesday, the 7th of tain-Lieutenant of the City Guard of September, the magistrates, who appear Edinburgh, present prisoner in the Tol- to have been enjoying themselves at a booth of that city, be respited for six convivial gathering, were informed that a weeks from the time appointed for his few boys were_beating a drum in the execution.” But, in point of fact, the Grassmarket. This news reached them, announcement was not made so suddenly, according to the “ Narrative," from which nor delayed until the last moment. The the following details are taken, at 9.45. fact that a respite had been granted was At six minutes to ten (the writer is very communicated to the magistrates of Edin- precise in giving the time) they sent an burgh on the 3rd of September; and on order to the captain of the guard to have the following day it was rumored in the his men under arms at once. But, “just city that the mob had resolved to set fire before the clock struck ten,” a mob drove to the prison on the evening of the 8th, if the guard from the guard-room, seized the sentence against Porteous was not duly ninety firelocks, and several axes, and carried out. “ This," says the compiler proceeded to occupy the gates of the city of the “ Narrative "in the Record Office, At the Netherbow Port, which separated “ was carefully inquired into by the magis. the city from the Canongate, they placed trates; but they could not discover any a strong party. A regiment of infantry, foundation for the report.” It also ap- the Welsh Fusileers, was at this time sta; pears that Lord Justice Clerk Fletcher tioned in the Canongate, under command did not anticipate any disturbance on of General Moyle; and the magistrates account of the mercy shown to Porteous; were anxious to obtain their assistance. for on the same day he writes to the Duke Mr. Lindsay, member of Parliament for of Newcastle: “ This act of her Majesty's the city, undertook to carry a message to royal mercy, and as it points to further, the troops, and, by taking a circuitous meets with almost a general approbation, rout, managed to find his way to the offiespecially among those of the higher rank cer's quarters, which he did not reach, and greatest distinction. And the few however, until 10.45. Moyle had already who grumble are only of the meaner sort, heard of the riot, and had his men assem. or such as either have confined ways of bled under arms; but when Lindsay, who thinking, or such as seem determined to he afterwards hinted was not quite sober, complain whatever happens.” But there made his appearance, the general raised ? can be little doubt that, during the next difficulty. As the gates of the city were few days, a band of determined men were locked, he “refused,” says the “ Narraquietly but busily preparing for the trag- tive," " to allow any man to march without edy which afterwards took place.
a warrant from the lord justice clerk, or a The scene on which the Porteous Riot lord of justiciary, who happened then to be all out of town." This hesitation and his tortures, at the same time cutting him loss of time, as will afterwards appear, in over the head, and burning his foot that all probability cost Porteous his life. In had the shoe off with a torch. Thus they a letter to the Duke of Newcastle, written used him three times, so that he was near two days later, Moyle says that he was in expiring when they hung him up the last bed, at a quarter past ten, when one of his time." officers came to him and said he heard It was at a quarter to twelve o'clock, acthat there was a great disturbance ic the cording to the “ Narrative,” that the execucity. He at once ordered the regiment to tion, or rather murder, took place. When be roused, and while he was dressing all was over “several attempts," says this Lindsay arrived. After explaining that account, “ were made to take down the he did not choose to force the gates with body, but the mob beat every one who out a warrant, he goes on to say: “Know- made such a proposal, till about daybreak ing that the justice clerk lived but two a few members of the Council, and some miles out of the town, I desired Mr. neighbors, got the body taken down and Lindsay to write immediately to him for laid it in the Greyfriars Church." his directions what he would have the It is almost certain that if General troops do, and sent the letter by my own Moyle had made up his mind to act with. servant, who galloped all the way. My out a written warrant, and had, as soon as Lord being in bed, he got no answer from he received the message from the magishim till nearly one of the clock. The let. trates, forced his way into the city, the ter was direcied to Mr. Lindsay, so I never mob would not have succeeded in their obsaw the answer, and long before it came ject. The request for assistance reached the poor man was hanged by the mob. him at about a quarter to eleven. His By what I since hear he was executed be- men were ready. He was quite mistaken fore Mr. Lindsay came to my house, for in supposing that Porteous was "got out they got him out of prison a little after of prison a little after ten." The mob ten."
was then engaged in driving away the In the mean time the mob was attacking magistrates, and in attempting to break the Tolbooth. The magistrates attempted into the prison with sledge-hammers and to disperse the rioters, who, having pro. axes, and it was some time before the door vided themselves with ammunition by was set on fire. It was only a few hunbreaking open the shop “of one Alexander dred yards from the Canongate to the Dunning," threatened to fire, and drove scene of the riot, and an hour at least away both the magistrates and the City passed before an entrance was effected Guard. The assault on the prison contin. into the Tolbooth. There can therefore ued for an hour before the door, which be little doubt that, even allowing for was at last destroyed by fire, was broken some delay at the Netherbow Port, the in. Porteous was speedily found, and troops could have passed up the High hurried up the Lawnmarket, and down by Street and reached the Tolbooth in time the Westbow into the Grassmarket. The to prevent the tragedy, which, as we have justice clerk, writing to the Duke of New-seen, was not completed till nearly midcastle, describes the scene of that un- night -- that is, about an hour and a half heard-of cruel action, so far as I have yet after the general received the message been able to discover.” All was hurry from the magistrates. But it was perhaps and confusion as the wretched victim was natural that an English officer, with the dragged to his doom. "On his way he knowledge that he might have, if bloodlost one of his shoes, which they would shed ensued, to stand his trial, like Por. not suffer him to put on." He was loaded teous, before a jury of Edinburgh citizens, with curses and abuse until the spot was should hesitate to act without a regular reached where he had, nearly five months warrant from some civil authority. before, committed the rash act for which When morning came all was quiet. The he was now to suffer. There he was dead body of Porteous, discolored by hanged with every species of cruelty. blows, and with the neck and one arm "He humbly implored,” says the justice broken, lay in the ancient church of the clerk," time to make a short prayer, which Greyfriars. The weapons which the riot. they refused; and on lifting up his hands, ers had used lay scattered along the West one of them struck him over the arm with bow and the Grassmarket, and at the a Lochaber axe and broke his arm. And Tolbooth the charred and battered door. they hung him up; and, after he had hung way alone showed that another had been about four minutes, they cut him down in added to the long roll of violent deeds order to augment his terrors and increase which its venerable walls had witnessed. The lord justice clerk, General Moyle, ence in the mob complete evidence was and the magistrates began to make 'en- obtained, it turned out that he had been quiries into the origin of the riot, but no so drunk as to be quite incapable of unone would give information. In a rather derstanding what was going on, and he curious account of the affair, published was therefore acquitted. fifty years after, the writer says: “ Al- Soon all hope of discovering and pun. though this mob was riotous, yet none ishing the rioters was abandoned, and the concerned was ever known, although great blame for this failure of justice was laid rewards were offered to the informers. on the magistrates. General Wade writes Nor was there such a villain in all the to the Duke of Newcastle on the 4th of Highlands of Scotland as to accept £30,- November, sending a list of persons con000 for the head of a prince.” This ref- fined in the Castle as concerned in the erence to the Jacobite rebellion of '45 murder, “Since the arrival of Lord Ilay, suggests that among the mob of Edin- for before I do not find there was any en: burgh, which at the time of the Porteous quiry made upon them by the magistrates, riots had a strong bias against the Hano- who, by the best information I have been veriap dynasty, it was considered a point able to procure, not only permitted the of party honor to shield the murderers murder to be committed (which they might of Porteous from the vengeance of the easily have prevented) but suffered all who crown. The law officers for Scotland (the were conscious of their guilt to make their lord advocate and solicitor-general) were escapes; and I fear it will be difficult to summoned to Edinburgh. Lord Ilay came find a jury who will not acquit those who down to assist them, and General Wade, are now prisoners." In the list sent by who was at that time engaged in the im- General Wade six persons are named; portant work of constructing military roads but only two trials took place, and in both in the Highlands, brought a body of his cases the accused were acquitted. med to help in maintaining order. The The story of the Porteous Riot was heard difficulties which hampered the law offi- with emotions of violent resentment in cers, from the apathy or uselessness of the London; and the queen, in particular, magistrates and the reticence of the citi- could hardly find words strong enough to zens, are described in the “Memorial” express her indignation. “It is still re. printed in the notes to the Heart of corded in popular tradition,” says Sir Midlothian." The letters in the Record Walter Scott, " that her Majesty in the Office tell the same tale. No one would height of her displeasure, told the celegive definite evidence, for the mob had brated John, Duke of Argyle, that sooner spread a rumor that death was to be the than submit to such an insult (the execu. punishment of any informer. Some ar- tion of Porteous) she would make Scotland rests having been made, Lord Ilay writes a hunting-field. In that case, madam,' to the Duke of Newcastle : “ There was answered that high-spirited nobleman, some little grumbling among the mob, who with a profound bow, “I will take leave of gathered upon the seizing the criminals, your Majesty, and go down to my own such as saying one to another, · We will country to get my hounds ready.' The imnot suffer our fellow-citizens to be dragged port of the reply had more than met the away. But upon the first beat of the drum ear.” The royal anger found vent in a bill that attended the party which marched up of pains and penalties against the city of the street, in order to conduct them to the Edinburgh, which was brought into the Castle, all was entirely quiet.” At one House of Lords, when Parliament met in time the authorities thought they were February, 1737. By this measure it was secure of at least one conviction. “ To proposed to disable the provost from holdday,” Lord Ilay writes to the Duke of ing any office in Great Britain, and to Newcastle, on the 9th of October, “I be imprison him; to abolish the City Guard lieve we shall catch one, who is footman and to remove the gate of the Netherbow. to a fair lady, and assisted the mob in his The extreme severity of this measure, and livery;" and a week later he writes: the personal feeling displayed by Queen “There has nothing happened remarkable Caroline have often been spoken of with since I troubled your Grace last, except astonishment, and are, indeed, hardly to that the Countess of Wemyss, whose foot. I be accounted for by mere zeal for the man I had ordered to be taken up, went maintenance of law and order. But the out of town with him to Haddington, and explanation may possibly be found in the I have sent a proper person to catch him contents of the private letters which had there." But in the long run, although this been sent from Edinburgh at the time of man was the only person of whose press the riot. For instance, the lord justice
clerk, writing on the 11th of September, eral for Scotland followed the example 1736, says: “'Tis beyond all doubt that which the Duke of Argyle had set them the magistrates connived at this murder, in the House of Lords, and strongly refor they had intimation of the design of sisted it. Walpole, fearing to offend the the rabble the Sunday before, and gave members for Scotland, accepted amendthe troops no notice of it in order to ments which reduced the bill to a measure secure the peace, and consequently save disabling the provost, and imposing a fine the poor man's blood. I had forgot to upon the city. The bill, thus altered, was tell you that the villains had the impu. nearly lost on the motion to report it. dence to have a watch word, which was The numbers were equal, and the question Hanover, speaking on all occasions very was only decided by the casting vote of disrespectfully of the queen who granted the chairman. The Commons' amend. the reprieve, and at every interval of let. ments were accepted by the House of ting him down from the tree, cried (insult. Lords, and the measure, which did not at ing Porteous), Where is your reprieve? all satisfy the court, received the royal Shew it us, and we'll save you,' and then, assent on the last day of the session. with insulting curses, hung him up again." The Town Council of Edinburgh now He adds, in a postscript, “ The town, I thought that something must be done, to believe, would now be glad to be at quiet, show that they were not wholly indifferent their favorite point being gained; but if to whether the city was guilty or not. severe reprisals are not made, Lord have the magistrates had taken no part whatmercy upon me!” General Moyle also ever in the movement for the reprieve of writes in the same strain of censure Porteous, though he was their own officer, against the magistrates of the city: “1 and must have been personally acquainted am surprised the magistrates were not with them all; nor had they done much more on their guard. The town soldiers, to aid in the search after his murderers. instead of resisting, delivered their arms And now, even after the lesson they had to the mob. The turnkey of the prison received, they contented themselves with owned he had a hint given him in the issuing an order that, in future, if there morning that the prison would be at. was any appearance of a riot the various tempted to be broke open that night, and public bodies were to assemble at the that he acquainted the gaoler with it, and Council Chambers “to receive instrucdesired him to make it known to the lord tions for their guidance in preserving the provost, that care might be taken to pre. peace of the city.” vent it. The magistrates were drinking The Parliament followed up the statute together in the Parliament Close when which has just been mentioned, by passing the mob first assembled, and did not take another act " for bringing to justice the care to read the proclamation, which was murderers of Captain Porteous," which a very great neglect in them.” That made it a capital offence to conceal or clause of the bill which provided for re- assist any one who had borne a share in moving the Netherbow gate, is, to some the murder. This act was ordained to be extent, anticipated in one of the justice read aloud, before sermon, in every parish clerk's letters. “ As it is necessary,'
” church in Scotland, on the first Sunday of he writes, “an effectual communication every mouth, for one year from the ist of should be secured betwixt his Majesty's August, 1737. Any clergyman who failed forces in the Castle and in the Canongate, to read the act was rendered incapable of the gate of the city which leads that way sitting in any church court for the first was at first chained back; and to prevent offence; and for the second offence he any possibility of accidents, one of the was liable to be deposed from his living. sides of the gate was on Monday last The Scottish clergy were at once up in taken away, on pretence it stood in need arms. What some of them thought of of repairs. I choosed this should be done the fate of Porteous may be surmised by degrees, and in the easiest way, be- from the opening sentence of a curious cause the populace fancy some of their pamphlet setting forth “ The Lawsuiness privileges are wrapped up in their gates." and Necessity of Ministers, their reading
The bill passed the Lords, and was sent the Act of Parliament for bringing to jusdown to the Commons in the middle of tice the murderers of Captain Porteous." May. In the Lower House even the first God," says the writer, " in his sovereign reading was opposed by all the Scottish providence, which, in all events, we should and many of the English members. Al. adore, has permitted this cruelty to be though it was a government measure, both acted on Porteous, that so he should be the lord advocate and the solicitor gen- put to death in a worse shape than that