The first of his state-preferments was anno 1633. when king Charles I. came to Scotland, in order to have his coronation performed there. At which time he dignified several of the Scots nobility with higher titles of honour; and among the rest this nobleman, who was created earl of Loudon May 12th, 1633.
It appears, that from his youth he had been well affected to the presbyterian interest, for no sooner did that reformation (commonly called the second reformation) begin to take air, which was about the year 1637, than he appeared a principal promoter thereof, and that not only in joining these petitioners, afterwards called the covenanters, but also when the general assembly sat down at Glasgow in Nov.1638, he thought it his honour to attend the same in almost every session thereof, and was of great service both by his advice in difficult cases, and also by several excellent speeches that he delivered therein. As witness Upon the very entry, when the difference arose between the marquis of Hamilton the king's commissioner, and some of the rest, anent choosing a clerk to the assembly, the marquis refusing to be assisted by Traquair and Sir Lewis Stuart, urged several reasons for compliance with his majesty's pleasure, &c. and at last renewed his protest, where upon lord Loudon, in name of commissioners to the assembly, gave in reasons of a pretty high strain, why the lord commissioner and his assessors ought to have but one vote in the assembly, &c. Of these reasons Traquair craved a double, and promised to answer them, but it appears never found leisure for this employment.
About this time, he told the king's commissioner roundly, "They knew no other bonds betwixt a king and his subjects but religion and laws; and if these were broken, mens lives were not dear to them. They would not be so; such fears were past with them."
The king and the bishops being galled to the heart to see that, by the assembly, presbytery was almost restored, and prelacy well nigh abolished, he immediately put himself at the head of an army in order to reduce them, &c. The Scots, hearing of the preparation, provided as well as they could. Both armies marched towards the border, but upon the approach of the Scots, the English were moved with great timidity, whereupon ensued a pacification. -- -- Commissioners being appointed to treat on both sides, the Scots were permitted to make known their desires; the lord Loudon being one of the Scots commissioners, upon his knees said, "That their demand was only to enjoy their religion and liberties, according to the ecclesiastical and civil laws of the kingdom." The king replied, "That if that was all that was to be desired, the peace would soon be made." And after several particulars were agreed upon, the king promised, "That all ecclesiastical matters should be decided by an assembly, and civil matters by the parliament, which assembly should be kept once a-year. That on the 6th of August should be held a free general assembly when the king would be present, and pass an act of oblivion, &c." The articles of the pacification were subscribed June 18th, by the commissioners of both sides, in view of both armies at kirks near Berwick, anno 1639.
But this treaty was short-lived and ill observed, for the king irritated by the bishops, soon after burnt the pacification by the hands of the hangman, charging the Scots with a breach of the articles of the treaty, although the earl of Loudon gave him sufficient proofs to the contrary. Which freedom used by his lordship no way pleased the king; but he was suffered to return home, and the king kept his resentment unto another opportunity.
In the mean time, the general assembly sat down at Edinburgh, August 12th. Mr. Dickson was chosen moderator, and at this assembly, after several matters were discussed, Messrs. Henderson and Ramsay entered upon a demonstration, that episcopacy hath its beginning from men, and is of human institution, &c. But they had not proceeded far, till they were interrupted by Traquair, the king's commissioner, who declared he did not desire them to fall upon any scholastic dispute, but how far those in the reformation had found episcopacy contrary to the constitution of this church; whereupon the truly noble lord Loudon (being present) did most solidly explain the act of the general assembly, 1580, which condemned the office of bishops in the most express terms, prior to the subscription of the national covenant, and because of a difficulty raised from these words in that act, viz. (as it was then used) his lordship observed that in the assemblies 1560, 1575, 1576, 1577, and 1578, episcopacy came still under consideration, though not directly as to the office, yet as to the corruption, &c. and having enlarged upon the office of bishops as without a warrant from the word of God, he concludes -- "As we have said, so that the connection between the assemblies of 1574, and of 1581, is quite clear; episcopacy is put out as wanting warrant from the word of God, and presbytery put in, as having that divine warrant; and was accordingly sworn unto."
The same day on which the assembly arose, the parliament sat down, but falling upon matters that did not correspond with the king's design, Traquair did all he could to stop them that they might have nothing done, whereupon they agreed to send up the earls of Dunfermline and Loudon to implore his majesty to allow the parliament to proceed, and to determine what was before them, &c. But ere these two lords had reached the court, orders were sent them discharging them in the king's name, from coming within a mile of him, on supposition they had no express warrant from the lord commissioner; and they were returned home.
In the mean time the parliament by the kings orders is prorogued to the 2d of June 1640, and matters continued so till Jan.1641, that the committee of parliament having obtained leave to send up commissioners to represent their grievances, did again commission the two foresaid earls, to whom they added Sir William Douglas of Cavers, and Mr. Barclay provost of Irvine. On their arrival they were allowed to kiss the king's hand, and some time after were appointed to attend at the council chamber, but understanding they were not to have a hearing of the king himself, they craved a copy of Traquair's information to the council of England, which was denied. At last the king gave them audience himself upon the third of March, when the lord Loudon, after having addressed his majesty, shewed that his ancient and native kingdom is independent upon any other judicatory whatever, and craved his majesty's protection in defence of religion, liberty, and the cause of the church and kingdom, and then speaking concerning those who have or may misrepresent or traduce these his most loyal Scots subjects, he says, "If it please God, for our sins to make our condition so deplorable as they may get the shadow of your majesty's authority, (as we hope in God they will not) to palliate their ends, then as those who are sworn to defend our religion, our recourse must be only to the God of Jacob for our refuge, who is the Lord of lords, and king of kings, and by whom kings do reign and princes decree justice. And if, in speaking thus out of zeal to religion, and the duty we owe to our country, and that charge which is laid upon us, any thing hath escaped us, sith it is spoken from the sincerity of our hearts, we fall down at your majesty's feet, craving pardon for our freedom." Again having eloquently expatiated upon the desires of his subjects, and the laws of the kingdom, he speaks of the laws of God and power of the church, and says, "Next, we must distinguish betwixt the church and the state, betwixt the ecclesiastical and civil power; both which are materially one, yet formally they are contradistinct in power, in jurisdiction, in laws, in bodies, in ends, in offices and officers, and although the church and ecclesiastic assemblies thereof be formally different and distinct from the parliament and civil judicatories, yet there is so strict and necessary a conjunction betwixt the ecclesiastic and civil jurisdiction, betwixt religion and justice; as the one cannot firmly subsist and be preserved without the other, and therefore they must stand and fall, live and die together, &c." He enlarged further upon the privileges of both church and state, and then concluded with mentioning the sum of their desires, which -- -- "is that your majesty (saith he) may be graciously pleased to command that the parliament may proceed freely to determine all these articles given in to them, and whatsoever exceptions, objections, or informations are made against any of the particular overtures, &c. we are most willing to receive the same in write, and are content in the same way, to return our answers and humble desires."
March 11, the commissioners appeared, and brought their instructions, whereupon ensued some reasonings betwixt them and the king, in which time arch-bishop Laud, who sat on the king's right-hand, was observed to mock the Scots commissioners, causing the king put such questions to them as he pleased. At last Traquair gave in several queries and objections to them, unto which they gave most solid and sufficient answers in every particular.
But this farce being over, for it seems nothing else was here intended by the court than to intrap the commissioners, (and particularly this noble earl who had so strenuously asserted the laws and liberties of his native country). In the end, all the deputies, by the king's order, were taken into custody, and the earl of Loudon sent to the tower for a letter alledged to be wrote by him, and sent by the Scots to the French king, as to their sovereign, imploring his aid against their natural king, of the following tenor:
"Your majesty being the refuge and sanctuary of afflicted princes and states, we have found it necessary to send this gentleman Mr. Colvil, to represent unto your majesty, the candor and ingenuity as well of our actions and proceedings, as of our inventions, which we desire to be ingraven and written in the whole world, with a beam of the sun, as well as to your majesty. We therefore beseech you, Sire, to give faith and credit to him, and to all that he shall say on our part, touching us and our affairs. Being much assured, Sire, of an assistance equal to your wonted clemency heretofore, and so often shewed to the nation, which will not yield the glory of any other whatsoever, to be eternally, Sire, your majesty's most humble, most obedient and most affectionate servants."
This letter, says a historian, was advised to and composed by Montrose, when the king was coming against Scotland with a potent army, transcribed by lord Loudon, and subscribed by them two and the lords Rothes, Marr, Montgomery and Forrester, and general Leslie; but the translation being found faulty by lord Maitland, &c. it was dropped altogether, which copy wanted both the date, which the worst of its enemies never pretended it had, and a direction, which the Scots confidently affirmed it never had; but falling into the king's hand (by means of Traquair), he intended to make a handle of it, to make lord Loudon the first sacrifice. This noble lord being examined before the council, did very honestly acknowledge the hand-writing and subscription to be his; but said, It was before the late pacification, when his majesty was marching in hostility against his native country; that in these circumstances it seemed necessary to have an intercessor to mitigate his wrath, and they could think of none so well qualified as the French king, being the nearest relation by affinity to their sovereign of any other crowned head in the world; but that being but shortly thought on before the arrival of the English on the border, was judged too late, and therefore was never either addressed by them, or sent to the French king.
Notwithstanding this evil was intended against this noble peer, and being remanded back to prison, was very near being dispatched, and that not only without the benefit of his peers, but without any legal trial or conviction. Burnet fairly acknowledges, that the king was advised to proceed capitally against him. But the English historians go still farther, and plainly say, That the king about three o'clock in the afternoon, sent his own letter to William Balfour lieutenant of the tower, commanding him to see the lord Loudon's head struck off, within the tower, before nine the next morning, (a striking demonstration of the just and forgiving spirit for which by some king Charles is so much extolled). Upon this command, the lieutenant of the tower, that his lordship might prepare for death, gave him notice of it; which awful intimation, he (knowing the justice of his cause) received with astonishing composure and serenity of mind. The lieutenant went himself to the marquis of Hamilton, who he thought was bound in honour to interpose in this matter. The marquis and the lieutenant made their way to the king, who was then in bed. The warrant was scarce named, when the king, understanding their errand, stopped them, saying, By G -- d it shall be executed. But the marquis laying before him the odiousness of the fact, by the violation of the safe conduct he had granted to that nobleman, and the putting him to death without conviction, or so much as a legal trial, with the dismal consequences that were like to attend an action of that nature, not only in respect of Scotland, which would certainly be lost, but likewise of his own personal safety from the nobility. Whereupon the king called for the warrant, tore it, and dismissed the marquis and the lieutenant somewhat abruptly. -- After this, about the 28th of June, this noble lord (upon promise of concealing from his brethren in Scotland the hard treatment he had met with from the king, and of contributing his endeavours to dispose them to peace) was liberated from his confinement, and allowed to return home.
But things being now ripened for a new war, the king put himself at the head of another army, in order to suppress the Scots: On the other hand the Scots resolved not to be behind in their preparations, and entered England with a numerous army, mostly of veteran troops, many of whom had served in Germany under Gustavus Adolphus. A party of the king's forces disputed the passage of the Tyne, but were defeated by them at Newburn; whereupon the Scots took Newcastle and Berwick, pushing their way as far as Durham. Here the noble earl of Loudon acted no mean part, for he not only gained upon the citizens of Edinburgh and other places, to contribute money and other necessaries, for the use and supply of the Scots army, but also commanded a brigade of horse, with whom, in the foresaid skirmish at Newburn, he had no small share of the victory. The king retired to York, and finding himself environed on all hands, appointed commissioners to treat with the Scots a second time. On the other side, the Scots nominated the earls of Dunfermline, Rothes, and Loudon, with some gentlemen, and Messrs. Henderson and Johnson, advocates for the church, as their commissioners for the treaty. Both commissioners upon Oct.1, 1640, met at Rippon, where, after agreeing upon some articles for a cessation of arms for three months, the treaty was transferred to London. Unto which the Scots commissioners (upon a patent granted from the king for their safe conduct) consented and went thither. And because great hopes were entertained by friends in England, from their presence and influence at London, the committee at Newcastle appointed Mr. Robert Blair, for his dexterity in dealing with the Independents; Mr. Robert Bailey, for his eminence in managing the Arminian controversy; and Mr. George Gillespie for his nervous and pithy confutation of the English ceremonies, to accompany the three noblemen, as their chaplains: And Messrs. Smith and Borthwick followed soon after.
After this treaty, things went pretty smooth for some time in Scotland, but the king, not relishing the proceedings of the English parliament, made a tour next year to Scotland, where he attended the Scots parliament. When this parliament sat down (before the king's arrival), Traquair, Montrose, and several other incendiaries, having been cited before them for stirring up strife between the king and his subjects, for undoing the covenanters, of whom some appeared, and some appeared not. In the mean while, the noble earl of Loudon said so much in favours of some of them, discharging himself so effectually of all the orders laid on him last year by the king, that some, forgetting the obligation he came under to steer with an even hand, began to suspect him of changing sides, so that he was well nigh left out of the commission to England with the parliament's agreement to the treaty; which so much offended his lordship, that he supplicated the parliament to be examined by them of his past conduct and negotiations, if they found him faithful (so far was he emboldened, having the testimony of a good conscience), which grieved the members of the house very much. The house declared, indeed, that he had behaved himself faithfully and wisely in all his public employments, and that he not only deserved to have an act of approbation, but likewise to be rewarded by the estates, that their favours and his merit might be known to posterity, &c. They further considered, that the loss of such an eminent instrument could not be easily supplied. The English dealt not so freely with any of our commissioners, as with lord Loudon, nor did ever any of our commissioners use so much ingenuous freedom with his majesty as he did; and he behoved once more to return to London, with the treaty new-revised by the parliament, subscribed by the lord president and others.
After the return of the commissioners, the king being arrived in parliament, they began to dignify several of the Scots nobility with offices of state, and because a lord-treasurer was a-wanting it was moved that none did deserve that office so well as the earl of Loudon, who had done so much for his country. But the king, judging more wisely in this, thought it was more difficult to find a fit person for the chancery than for the treaty, was obliged to make the earl of Loudon chancellor, contrary, both to his own inclination (for he never was ambitious of preferment) and to the solicitation of his friends. But to make amends for the smallness of his fees, an annual pension of 100 pounds was added to this office.
Accordingly upon the 2d of Oct.1642, this noble lord did solemnly, in the face of the parliament, on his bended knees, before the throne, first swear the oath of allegiance, then that of private counsellor, and lastly, when the great seal, (which for two years had been kept by the marquis of Hamilton) was with the mace delivered to him out of his majesty's hand, he did swear the oath de fideli administratione officii, and was by the lion king at arms, placed in the seat under his majesty's feet, on the right hand of the lord president of parliament; from thence he immediately arose, and prostrating himself before the king, said, "Preferment comes neither from the east nor from the west, but from God alone. I acknowledge, I have this from your majesty as from God's vicegerent upon earth, and the fountain of all earthly honour here, and I will endeavour to answer that expectation your majesty has of me, and to deserve the goodwill of this honourable house, in faithfully discharging what you both (without desert of mine) have put on me." And kissing his majesty's hand, he retired to his seat.
This was a notable turn of affairs from the womb of providence; for behold him, who last year, (for the cause of Christ and love of his country) in all submission receiving the message or sentence of death, is now, for his great wisdom and prudence, advanced by the same person and authority unto the helm of the highest affairs of the kingdom; which verifies what the wise man saith, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and before honour is humility, Prov. xv.33.
As soon as this excellent nobleman was advanced unto this dignity and office, he not only began to exert his power for the utility and welfare of his own native country, but also, the next year, went up to London to importune his majesty to call his English parliament, as the most expedient way to bring about a firm, permanent or lasting peace betwixt the two kingdoms. And although he was not one of those commissioners nominated and sent up from the parliament and assembly of the church of Scotland, anno 1643, yet it is evident from a letter sent from them while at London, bearing the date of Jan.6th, 1645, that he was amongst them there, using his utmost endeavours for bringing about that happy uniformity of religion, in doctrine, discipline, and church-government which took place, and was established in these nations at that time.
And next year, before the king surrendered himself to the Scots army to Newcastle, lord Loudon, being sent up as commissioner to the king, (after the lord Leven at the head of 100 officers in the army had presented a petition upon their knees, beseeching his majesty to give them satisfaction in point of religion, and to take the covenant, &c.) did, in plain terms, accost the king in this manner: "The difference between your majesty and your parliament is grown to such an height, that after many bloody battles, they have your majesty with all your garrisons and strong holds in their hands, &c. They are in a capacity now to do what they will in church and state; and some are so afraid, and others so unwilling to proceed to extremities, till they know your majesty's last resolution. Now, Sire, if your majesty shall refuse your assent to the propositions, you will lose all your friends in the house and in the city, and all England will join against you, as one man; they will depose you and set up another government; they will charge us to deliver your majesty to them, and remove our arms out of England, and upon your refusal, we will be obliged to settle religion and peace without you, which will ruin your majesty and your posterity. We own, the propositions are higher in some things than we approve of, but the only way to establish your majesty is to consent to them at present. Your majesty may recover, in a time of peace, all that you have lost in a time of tempest and trouble." Whether or not the king found him a true prophet in all this, must be left to the history of these times.
He was again employed in the like errand to the king, anno 1648, but with no better success, as appears from two excellent speeches to the Scots parliament at his return, concerning these proceedings. And in the same year, in the month of June, he was with a handful of covenanters at a communion at Mauchline muir, where they were set upon by Calender and Middleton's forces, after they had given their promise to his lordship of the contrary.
Although this noble earl (through the influence of the earl of Lanerk) had given his consent at first to the king, who was setting on foot an army for his own rescue, yet he came to be among those who protested against the duke of Hamilton's unlawful engagement. To account some way for this, -- He had before received a promise of a gift of the teinds, and a gift sometimes blindeth the eyes, and much more of a nobleman whose estate was at that time somewhat burdened; but by converting with some of the protesting side, and some ministers, who discovered to him his mistake (when his foot was well nigh slipt), he was so convinced that this was contrary to his trust, that he subscribed an admonition to more stedfastness for the commission of the church, in the high church of Edinburgh.
But at last Charles I, being executed, and his son Charles II. called home by the Scots, a new scene begins to appear anno 1650, for malignants being then again brought into places of power and trust, it behoved the lord chancellor (who never was a friend to malignants) to demit. He had now for near the space of ten years presided in parliament, and had been highly instrumental in the hand of the Lord, to establish in this nation, both in church and state, the purest reformation that ever was established in any particular nation, under the new Testament dispensation; but now he was turned out, and lord Burleigh substituted in his place.
In what manner he was mostly employed during the time of Cromwel's usurpation, there is no certain account, only it is probable, that notwithstanding the many struggles he had in asserting the king's interest, he mostly lived a private life, as most of the noblemen and gentlemen of the nation did at that time.
But no sooner was the king restored again unto his dominions, than these lands did again return back unto the old vomit of popery, prelacy and slavery; and it is inconceivable to express the grief of heart this godly nobleman sustained, when he beheld not only the carved work of the sanctuary cut down, by defacing that glorious structure of reformation, which he had such an eminent hand in erecting and building up, but also to find himself at the king's mercy, for his accession to the same. He knew, that next to the marquis of Argyle, he was the butt of the enemies malice, and he had frequently applied for his majesty's grace, but was as often refused; so that the violent courses now carrying on, and the plain invasions upon the liberties and religion of the nation made him weary of his life; and being then at Edinburgh, he often exhorted his excellent lady to pray fast, that he might never see the next session of parliament, else he might follow his dear friend the marquis of Argyle; and the Lord was pleased to grant his request: For he died in a most Christian manner at Edinburgh March 15th, 1662, and his corpse was carried home and interred beside his ancestors.
The most exaggerated praises that can be at present bestowed on this renowned patriot, the worthy earl of Loudon, must be far below his merit, who was possessed of such singular prudence, eloquence and learning, joined with remarkable courage. Which excellent endowments he invariably applied for the support of our ancient and admirable constitution, which he maintained upon all hazards and occasions; whereby he might be truly accounted the chief advocate both for the civil and religious liberties of the people. To sum up all in a few words: he was a most exquisite orator in the senate, a refined politician without what some would say it is impossible to be so, and an honour to his name, an ornament to this nation, and in every virtue in politic, social and domestic life, a pattern worthy of imitation. And although HIS OFFSPRING have hitherto all along retained a sense of their civil liberties, yet it is to be lamented, that few or none of our noblemen at this day, will follow his example.