Attempts of Argyle and Monmouth - Account of their followers - Argyle's expedition discovered - His descent in Argyleshire - Dissensions among his followers - Loss of his shipping - His army dispersed, and himself taken prisoner - His behaviour in prison - His execution - The fate of his followers - Rumbold's last declaration examined - Monmouth's invasion of England - His first success and reception - His delays, disappointment, and despondency - Battle of Sedgmoor - He is discovered and taken - His letter to the king - His interview with James - His preparations for death - Circumstances attending his execution - His character.
It is now necessary to give some account of those attempts in Scotland by the Earl of Argyle, and in England by the Duke of Monmouth, of which the king had informed his parliament in the manner recited in the preceding chapter. The Earl of Argyle was son to the Marquis of Argyle, of whose unjust execution, and the treacherous circumstances accompanying it, notice has already been taken. He had in his youth been strongly attached to the royal cause, and had refused to lay down his arms till he had the exiled king's positive orders for that purpose. But the merit of his early services could neither save the life of his father, nor even procure for himself a complete restitution of his family honours and estates; and not long after the restoration, upon an accusation of leasing-making, an accusation founded, in this instance, upon a private letter to a fellow-subject, in which he spoke with some freedom of his majesty's Scottish ministry, he was condemned to death. The sentence was suspended and finally remitted, but not till after an imprisonment of twelve months and upwards. In this affair he was much assisted by the friendship of the Duke of Lauderdale, with whom he ever afterwards lived upon terms of friendship, though his principles would not permit him to give active assistance to that nobleman in his government of Scotland. Accordingly, we do not, during that period, find Argyle's name among those who held any of those great employments of State to which, by his rank and consequence, he was naturally entitled. When James, then Duke of York, was appointed to the Scottish government, it seems to have been the earl's intention to cultivate his royal highness's favour, and he was a strenuous supporter of the bill which condemned all attempts at exclusions or other alterations in the succession of the crown. But having highly offended that prince by insisting, on the occasion of the test, that the royal family, when in office, should not be exempted from taking that oath which they imposed upon subjects in like situations, his royal highness ordered a prosecution against him, for the explanation with which he had taken the test oath at the council-board, and the earl was, as we have seen, again condemned to death. From the time of his escape from prison he resided wholly in foreign countries, and was looked to as a principal ally by such of the English patriots as had at any time entertained thoughts, whether more or less ripened, of delivering their country.
James, Duke of Monmouth, was the eldest of the late king's natural children. In the early parts of his life he held the first place in his father's affections; and even in the height of Charles's displeasure at his political conduct, attentive observers thought they could discern that the traces of paternal tenderness were by no means effaced. Appearing at court in the bloom of youth, with a beautiful figure and engaging manners, known to be the darling of the monarch, it is no wonder that he was early assailed by the arts of flattery; and it is rather a proof that he had not the strongest of all minds, than of any extraordinary weakness of character, that he was not proof against them. He had appeared with some distinction in the Flemish campaigns, and his conduct had been noticed with the approbation of the commanders as well as Dutch as French, under whom he had respectively served. His courage was allowed by all, his person admired, his generosity loved, his sincerity confided in. If his talents were not of the first rate, they were by no means contemptible; and he possessed, in an eminent degree, qualities which, in popular government, are far more effective than the most splendid talents; qualities by which he inspired those who followed him, not only with confidence and esteem, but with affection, enthusiasm, and even fondness. Thus endowed, it is not surprising that his youthful mind was fired with ambition, or that he should consider the putting himself at the head of a party (a situation for which he seems to have been peculiarly qualified by so many advantages) as the means by which he was most likely to attain his object.