Religious concerns, in which he seems to have been very serious and sincere, engaged much of his thoughts; but his religion was of that genuine kind which, by representing the performance of our duties to our neighbour as the most acceptable service to God, strengthens all the charities of social life. While he anticipates, with a hope approaching to certainty, a happy futurity, he does not forget those who have been justly dear to him in this world. He writes, on the day of his execution, to his wife, and to some other relations, for whom he seems to have entertained a sort of parental tenderness, short, but the most affectionate letters, wherein he gives them the greatest satisfaction then in his power, by assuring them of his composure and tranquillity of mind, and refers them for further consolation to those sources from which he derived his own. In his letter to Mrs. Smith, written on the same day, he says, "While anything was a burden to me, your concern was; which is a cross greater than I can express" (alluding probably to the pecuniary loss she had incurred); "but I have, I thank God, overcome all." Her name, he adds, could not be concealed, and that he knows not what may have been discovered from any paper which may have been taken; otherwise he has named none to their disadvantage. He states that those in whose hands he is, had at first used him hardly, but that God had melted their hearts, and that he was now treated with civility. As an instance of this, he mentions the liberty he had obtained of sending this letter to her; a liberty which he takes as a kindness on their part, and which he had sought that she might not think he had forgotten her.
Never, perhaps, did a few sentences present so striking a picture of a mind truly virtuous and honourable. Heroic courage is the least part of his praise, and vanishes as it were from our sight, when we contemplate the sensibility with which he acknowledges the kindness, such as it is, of the very men who are leading him to the scaffold; the generous satisfaction which he feels on reflecting that no confession of his has endangered his associates; and above all, his anxiety, in such moments, to perform all the duties of friendship and gratitude, not only with the most scrupulous exactness, but with the most considerate attention to the feelings as well as to the interests of the person who was the object of them. Indeed, it seems throughout to have been the peculiar felicity of this man's mind, that everything was present to it that ought to be so; nothing that ought not. Of his country he could not be unmindful; and it was one among other consequences of his happy temper, that on this subject he did not entertain those gloomy ideas which the then state of Scotland was but too well fitted to inspire. In a conversation with an intimate friend, he says that, though he does not take upon him to be a prophet, he doubts not but that deliverance will come, and suddenly, of which his failings had rendered him unworthy to be the instrument. In some verses which he composed on the night preceding his execution, and which he intended for his epitaph, he thus expresses this hope still more distinctly
"On my attempt though Providence did frown, His oppressed people God at length shall own; Another hand, by more successful speed, Shall raise the remnant, bruise the serpent's head."
With respect to the epitaph itself, of which these lines form a part, it is probable that he composed it chiefly with a view to amuse and relieve his mind, fatigued with exertion, and partly, perhaps, in imitation of the famous Marquis of Montrose, who, in similar circumstances, had written some verses which have been much celebrated. The poetical merit of the pieces appears to be nearly equal, and is not in either instance considerable, and they are only in so far valuable as they may serve to convey to us some image of the minds by which they were produced. He who reads them with this view will, perhaps, be of opinion that the spirit manifested in the two compositions is rather equal in degree than like in character; that the courage of Montrose was more turbulent, that of Argyle more calm and sedate. If, on the one hand, it is to be regretted that we have not more memorials left of passages so interesting, and that even of those which we do possess, a great part is obscured by time, it must be confessed, on the other, that we have quite enough to enable us to pronounce that for constancy and equanimity under the severest trials, few men have equalled, none ever surpassed, the Earl of Argyle. The most powerful of all tempters, hope, was not held out to him, so that he had not, it is true, in addition to his other hard tasks, that of resisting her seductive influence; but the passions of a different class had the fullest scope for their attacks. These, however, could make no impression on his well- disciplined mind. Anger could not exasperate, fear could not appal him; and if disappointment and indignation at the misbehaviour of his followers, and the supineness of the country, did occasionally, as surely they must, cause uneasy sensations, they had not the power to extort from him one unbecoming or even querulous expression. Let him be weighed never so scrupulously, and in the nicest scales, he will not be found, in a single instance, wanting in the charity of a Christian, the firmness and benevolence of a patriot, the integrity and fidelity of a man of honour.