The Interrogation and Torture of Archibald Stewart in 1680
Archibald Stewart from Bo’ness was captured with James Skene and Marion Harvie in an ambush at the Muttonhole near Edinburgh. Donald Cargill, James Boig and Janet Elphinstone (aka. Mrs Moor), who were traveling in the same party, evaded capture.
I have reordered Stewart’s interrogations to reveal the chronology of events. He was first interrogated on 13 November in the usual fashion. However, at second interrogation on 15 November Stewart was tortured in the boot. A third interrogation conducted a day later did not involve torture, but took place in the shadow of it. I will leave it up to the reader to decide as to whether what he confessed to under those circumstances is reliable. (Anon., A True and Impartial Account Of the Examinations and Confessions Of several Execrable Conspirators Against the King & His Government In Scotland, 5, 7, 9-10.)
[13 Nov.] ‘Denies that he was at Bothwell-Bridge [in June, 1679], but confesses he was with [Richard] Cameron frequently before that time.’
[16 Nov. Post Torture.] ‘Confesses he knows Mr. George Barclay, one of the Ministers, but it is Twelvemonth since he saw him [i.e., in circa November. 1679].’
George Barclay was later vehemently opposed to the Society people.
[16 Nov. Post Torture.] ‘Confesses that in Winter last [i.e., of 1679 to 1680], (he remembers) he saw John Spreull in John Gib elder his House [in Bo’ness], were also present John Gib the younger, James Skene, and one Ann Stewart, but does not remember that [Donald] Cargill and [John] Spreull were together at that meeting.’
John Spreull had refused to answer questions in his interrogation. John Gibb later led a breakaway factions from the Society people known as the Sweet Singers, aka. the Gibbites. Ann Stewart was also later involved in the Sweet Singers. The implication of Stewart’s evidence is that Cargill knew Gibb well long before the Sweet Singers appeared in 1681.
[16 Nov. Post Torture.] ‘Being interrogated if at any time he was in the company with Mr. Donald Cargill, when John Spreull was present? He denies that he was.’
Stewart was also interrogated over whether he had met John Balfour of Kinloch, one of the assassins of Archbishop Sharp on 3 May, 1679.
[13 Nov.] ‘Confesses he has seen [John] Balfour of Kinloch since the killing of the Arch-bishop, but would not tell when nor where.’
Kinloch had fled to the Rotterdam via Bo’ness in late 1679. His exclusion from communion at the Scots Kirk in Rotterdam by Robert Fleming and other ministers in exile led to splits within the militant presbyterian faction over whether they should hear Fleming and others preach.
[16 Nov. Post Torture.] ‘Confesses he saw John Balfour [of Kinloch] in Holland, in company of John Spreull, where their Discourse was about Religion, and Cases of Conscience, but did not remember any particular Cases were treated of concerning their Murdering Principles.’
Balfour of Kinloch was close to the chief ideologue of the militant presbyterian movement, Robert MacWard, While MacWard was sympathetic to Balfour’s plight, he would not withdraw from Robert Fleming.
It is clear that Stewart mixed with the exiled presbyterian community in Rotterdam between late 1679 and mid 1680.
[16 Nov. Post Torture.] ‘Being interrogated if he knows John Spreull? He declares he knows him, but doth not remember where he saw him first, having seen him so often: That about half a year since, he saw Spreull in Holland in the company of James Thomson, who lives there, and in the company of Mr [Robert] Mecquar[d], and Mr. Robert Fleeming.’
It is not clear exactly when Stewart returned from Rotterdam to Scotland, but he appears to have returned when Cargill and Cameron began field preaching in mid 1680.
[13 Nov.] ‘That he owns and justifies the new Covenant, called, Cargil’s Covenant [aka. the Queensferry Paper, seized on 3 June, 1680.].’
[13 Nov.] ‘Declares he owns the Proclamation against the King at Sanchar [of 22 June, 1680], and owns the burning of the Kings Acts of Parliament against the Covenant at Rutherglen [in May, 1679] as a Duty.’
He was present at the skirmish at Airdsmoss in which Richard Cameron was killed.
[13 Nov.] ‘Archibald Steward in Borrowstonness, being Interrogated, Confesses that he was in the Rebellion at Airdsmosse [on 22 July, 1680], with Mr. [Richard] Cameron, and had a Sword and two Pistols.’
[16 Nov. Post Torture.] ‘Declares that about a quarter of a year since, or thereby [.i.e., c. August, 1680], he saw John Spreull in company of Mr. John Dickson (now a prisoner in the Basse) in his House in Edenburgh, where the Deponent was also present, and heard some discourse betwixt them concerning Mr Mecquar [i.e., MacWard] in Holland, and heard Spreull say, that Mr. Mecquar was sorry that some of their Party had refused to hear Mr. Robert Fleeming [at the Scots Kirk in Rotterdam].’
Dickson was imprisoned on 1 September, 1680 and sent to the Bass. (Wodrow, History, III, 196.)
[16 Nov. Post Torture.] ‘Declares the occasion of his going to Dickson’s House was to visit Dickson, having been sometimes in use so to do.’
It appears the Stewart visited Dickson, who he seems to have previously known, in the aftermath of the defeat at Airdsmoss. Soon after, Stewart was in Cargill’s company at Torwood:
[13 Nov.] ‘Declares he has been frequently with Mr. [Donald] Cargill, and was present at the [Torwood] Excommunication of the King and his Royal Highness [James, Duke of York], the Lord Chancellor, the Earl of Linlithgow, General [Thomas] Dalziel, and the Kings Advocate at the Conventicle at Torwood [in September, 1680], and he himself was there in Arms.’
[15 Nov. Under Torture.] ‘[Declares that Mr. James Boig] was in Arms at the Conventicle of Torwood, where the King and others were Excommunicated.’
Boig was later captured and executed with Cargill in July, 1681.
[15 Nov. Under Torture.] ‘Confesses he himself was at that Conventicle at Torwood, where were present John Gib and another of the same Name and Sirname, both Seamen in Borrowstonness; and that Robert Hammilton [in Broxburn], son of Duke Hammilton’s Chamberlain [at Kinneil House], was also at the same Conventicle.’
Stewart’s confession confirms that John Gibb, who later led the extreme Sweet Singers, was a follower of Cargill before the sect emerged.
Archibald Stewart adhered to the Torwood Excommunication:
[13 Nov.] ‘Declares he owns, That the King, his Royal Highness [i.e., York], and the other Persons aforesaid, were justly Excommunicated for the Breach of the Covenant, and the other Reasons exprest in the Excommunication.’
He also attended some other field preachings by Cargill after Torwood.
[15 Nov. Under Torture.] ‘Confesses he was at a Conventicle about a fortnight since at Largo Law [on 24 October], where Cargill Preached; and there were present the two Hendersons [Alexander and Andrew] that were at the killing of the Arch-Bishop [in 1679], as also the two [John] Gib[b]s, and Robert Hammilton [in Broxburn] already mentioned.’
[16 Nov. Post Torture.] ‘Confesses that upon Sabbath-day was eight days [i.e., 7 November], he was at a Conventicle in the Fields in the Moors above Falkirk, about a mile and a half from Fallas [i.e., Fauldhouse], where were present the two [John] Gib[b]s [seamen from Bo’ness], one John Henderson [servant to Kinkell], and James Russel in Fiffe, Mr. Donald Cargill having Preached, and there were 13 or 14 men in Arms.’
[13 Nov.] ‘Declares he saw Mr Cargill last within these two or three days (c.11 November) in Edenburgh; Being asked in what House? He answers it is a Case of Conscience, he cannot tell it.’
[15 Nov. Under Torture.] ‘Confesses that upon Thursday last [11 November] he was in company (in John Baird’s House) with Mr. Donald Cargill, where was present also with him one Mr. James Boog [i.e., James Boig], but declares he knows not where he dwells.’
[15 Nov. Under Torture.] ‘Declares that Mr. James Boog [i.e., Boig] was in Arms [in John Baird’s House], and ordinarily attends Cargill’.
[15 Nov. Under Torture.] ‘Confesses that [James] Henderson in North-[Queens]Ferry [who betrayed Cargill’s party at the Muttonhole] was also present with Cargill in Baird’s house upon Thursday [11 November].’
[16 Nov. Post Torture.] ‘Declares the Person that acquainted him that Mr. Donald Cargill was in Baird’s House upon Thursday last [11 November], was either Mr. James Boog or Margaret Anderson, who stays in a Womans House below the Weigh-house, who is called Mrs. [James?] Henderson.’
[13 Nov.] ‘Denies that he knows any new Design of rising in Arms.’
[13 Nov.] ‘Being interrogated if he knows of any Skipper or Seamen that had lately brought home any Arms or Ammunition, or any Commission given to that effect? Denies that he knows any?’
[13 Nov.] ‘Declares he disowns the Kings Authority; and thinks he is not obliged to obey him, because he has broken the Covenant. And being interrogated, if he now that the King is Excommunicated for Breach of the Covenant it be lawful to Kill him? Declares he desires to consider of it before he Answer.’
[13 Nov.] ‘Declares that he thinks it was lawful to kill the Arch-bishop of St Andrews, because he says he had betrayed the Kirk.’
[13 Nov.] ‘Being Interrogated if he thinks it lawful to kill the Kings Counsellors or Servants? Desires time to advise before he Answer.’
[15 Nov. Under Torture.] ‘Declares that if they could have gotten any of the Bishops or Judges in their hands, they would have killed them.’
[15 Nov. Under Torture.] ‘Being eased of the Torture, and interrogated if they had any Design to take any Mans life? Confesses that in general they had a mind to kill any should oppose them: and confesses that they had a design to kill one Thomas Kennoway in the Guard, Mr. John Park Minister at Carrin, and Mr. James Hamilton Minister of Borrowstonness: and the reason why they were to kill Kennoway, was because he had taken several of their Party; and the two Ministers, because they had been instrumental to discover Mr. Donald Cargill at [South] Queens-ferry, and the killing of Mr. [Henry] Hall [of Haughead].’
The Sweet Singers in Bo’ness, including Stewart’s sister, were allegedly more forgiving of Park and Hamilton’s betrayal of Cargill than Cuthill and Murray, as the curates were ‘alwayes in darkness’.
[16 Nov. Post Torture.] ‘Declares that he himself was not privy to those [Murdering] Designs, but that John Murray, and William Cutle, Seamen in Borrowstonness, told the Declarent that it was their design to kill all that were against them who came in their way and that Mr. Donald Cargill in his Preachings advised them to these Murdering Designs.’
John Murray was captured after Stewart’s execution on 1 December, 1680. At the time that Stewart confessed, Murray was still at liberty.
William Cuthill was executed alongside Cargill, James Boig, Walter Smith and William Thomson on 27 July, 1681.
He was captured armed with a dirk and two pistols at some point before 12 July, 1681, probably in the weeks before that date. Stewart’s evidence suggests that Cargill’s preaching in late 1680 inspired Cuthill and Murray to enact their ‘murdering designs’ against ‘all that were against them who came in their way’, i.e., the servants of the King.
Stewart’s evidence suggests that Cuthill and Murray were plotting to murder the ministers of Bo’ness and Carriden, and Thomas Kennoway of His Majesty’s Troop of Lifeguards. It is possible that all of those individuals were directly connected to incidents in which Cargill was nearly captured. In the case of the ministers, they were involved in the the Queensferry incident in which Cargill was nearly taken at the beginning of June, 1680.
Kennoway at Linlithgow Bridge?
Circumstantial evidence suggests that Kennoway may have been involved in an incident at Linlithgow bridge where Cargill’s horse was shot beneath him.
According to Stewart, ‘the reason why they were to kill Kennoway, was because he had taken several of their Party’. It is not clear if Kennoway was involved in one or more incidents in which Cargill’s followers were captured. Stewart’s use of the phrase ‘several of their Party’ may imply that three or more were captured. At the time of the alleged plot to murder Kennoway, several Society people were being held in Edinburgh, either for attending Torwood, or other preachings. It is not known how most of them were captured or whether they were taken in groups. However, among them were a group of six prisoners who had been traveling in the same party as Cargill when they were attacked by soldiers at Linlithgow Bridge, probably at the beginning of October, 1680. It is not known which soldiers were involved in the pursuit of Cargill’s party and the capture of the six prisoners, however, it is possible that Kennoway and his men, who operated in Linlithgowshire, were involved. Stewart’s evidence infers that Murray and Cuthill were plotting to murder individuals who were known to be directly responsible for breaking up Cargill’s network in late 1680. A few years later, the Society people assassinated Thomas Kennoway at Swine Abbey in Linlithgowshire in November, 1684.
Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.