Daniel Defoe on a Captain of the Killing Times

In 1717, the writer Daniel Defoe published his recollection of at least one conversation he had with Lieutenant-General James Maitland (d.1716). Maitland had served as a captain of a company in His Majesty’s Regiment of Foot Guards during the Killing Times. According to Defoe, Maitland regretted repressing the Society people:

‘The Writer of this has heard the late Lieutenant-General Maitland express great Abhorrence of the Cruelties committed by Major Balfour, Captain Douglass, General Dalziel, and several others, who would take Pains to search out such Men as they thought did but shun to be seen, and, with little or no Examination, shoot them upon the Spot; which he, being then under Command, could no way prevent: But many times, when Power was in his Hands, he either facilitated their Escape, or otherwise prevented the Mischief intended.’

The three officers that Maitland named were General Thomas Dalyell, of His Majesty’s Regiment of Dragoons, Major John Balfour, of the Earl of Mar’s Regiment of Foot, and almost certainly Captain Thomas Douglas, also of Mar’s Foot.

Main Street, Strathaven © Gordon Brown and licensed for reuse.

In 1685, Captain Maitland was under the direct command of Colonel James Douglas and was based in Glasgow.

He was involved in the following incident in a village near Hamilton:

‘In a Village not far from Hamilton, a poor Tradesman was beset in his House, while at his Work, by Five Soldiers, his Name Lawson: They call’d to him to come down the Stairs, which he refus’d to do; upon which all the Five Soldiers fir’d at htm, but he, being aware, stood by the Wall of the Chamber and avoided the Shot, and then cail’d to them and ask’d them wherefore they came to him, he was no Bothwell Brigg-man. Well then, say the Soldiers, come down, and we will do you no Hurt. The Man, however, knowing they were not to be trusted, came down, but got out of his Back Door, and jumping over two or three low Stone-Walls of the Gardens, got into the Fields, and took him to Flight, being very swift of Foot, and knowing they had just fir’d all their Pieces: They pursu’d him, and, loading their Musquets as they run, fir’d at him again several Shot; but, by good Providence missing him, the Man escaped to the Hills, but was heard of no more at his own Habitation.’

The ‘tradesman’  named Lawson that Maitland mentioned was possibly James Lawson, younger, a fugitive in Strathaven, as the two other Lawsons listed on the Fugitive Roll of 1684 did not live in a village. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 196.)

Defoe also states that Maitland took the remarkable step of warning fugitives and field preachings of his raids:

‘The aforesaid Lieutenant-General Maitland was then an Officer among these bloody Troops, and was, with some Soldiers, quarter’d in Glasgow but, being a Man of generous Principles, and of too much Humanity to be guilty of such Things as these, was a great Relief to the persecuted People, for he shelter’d and protected many who otherwise had been murtherd by the Soldiers; and if he was commanded on the Service which he abhorr’d so much, (viz..) to fall upon the poor People in their House or Field-Meetings, would frequently, by trusty Messengers, give them private Notice, that they might have Time to disperse and be gone away; and would often find out some Occasion to make his Men halt by the Way, that his Messengers might not come too late.’ (Defoe, Memoirs, 245-6.)

Nonetheless, he was involved in the Polmadie Incident in May, 1685.

Maitland was the son of Robert Maitland of the Bass. ‘He had been page to the Duke of Lauderdale but was … a French officer and was making his leavyes in Scotland in the year 1676.’ Maitland clearly had Continental experience when he was commissioned in the Foot Guards in 1677. He fought on the government side at Bothwell in 1679 and had a share of “Forfeitures”.

He was promoted to the rank of major on 13 September, 1687, to Lt-Colonel on 1 March, 1689, and to Bt-Colonel on1 March, 1691. He joined William of Orange’s side at the Revolution and served with distinction in command a company of grenadiers in Flanders. In 1694, he succeeded the Earl of Leven as Colonel of the regiment, later known as the Kings Own Scottish Borderers. He was promoted to Major-General on 1 February, 1705, and Lt-General on 1 January, 1709. He was briefly governor of Fort William before he retired in 1711. (Dalton, Scots Army, 25n, 148, 150n.)

~ by drmarkjardine on March 12, 2012.

One Response to “Daniel Defoe on a Captain of the Killing Times”

  1. […] Defoe also recorded that Maitland later claimed that he was a reluctant oppressor and critical of Balfour’s actions. […]

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