The Third Convention of the Society people at Talla Linn, 15 June, 1682
On 15 June, 1682, the Society people held their third general convention at Talla Linn, a burn and falls in a spectacular setting. By one estimate around 120 to 140 armed Society people attended. Like the previous convention, the third convention featured divisive debates.
Talla Linn lies in Tweedsmuir parish, Peeblesshire.
Michael Shields recorded the convention as follows:
‘a General Meeting did conveen at Talla Linn, in the Parish of Tweed’s-muir, and Sheriffdom of Tweedale, upon the 15th of June, 1682. After they were met, and prayer ended, and the meeting modelled after the wonted manner; when the questions were going through the members, which was ordinary to be enquired at them, about themselves and these they represented, their owning the Testimony, and being free of public scandal, there fell in confusions among them; for James Russel, a man of a hot and fiery spirit, being one of those who enquired the same, did stretch some of them [>p22.] too great a length, and added one question which was never enquired either before or after, nor much at that time, which was, If they or their Society were free of paying customs at Ports or Bridges? This he enquired at [an?]other one or two, which when perceived, it occasioned some debate, and so was desisted from; however the question of paying customs, was much tossed by, the said James Russel and some few with him, who not long after, made it, among others, a cause of separation from the witnessing party [i.e., the United Societies], by whom it was never so far stretched; for as they did find no fault with those that scrupled to pay it, if they did not impose the like upon others, so they that had clearness for the same, did not withdraw from them upon that head, if they were free of Other things which are ground of withdrawing, though they could have wished they had been free of that also seeing albeit they counted it one of the grievances and miseries under which they were to groan, as having some tendency indirectly, to the upholding and maintaining of a tyrannical powers which hath been long exercised over the consciences, bodies, and estates of the Lord’s people: yet not desiring to wreathe an insupportable yoke about their own necks, they looked upon the pay thereof to come under another consideration than [the] Cess, &c., the one being newly laid on, and enacted [for] wicked ends, and employed for unlawful uses; and the other being an antient thing, and a part of the town privileges, and often employed for necessary uses, as keeping of High-ways, Bridges, &c.
Nevertheless many of them did not make use of this argument, not being acquaint with the way of its first laying on, nor what use was made of it, but only pleaded the necessity of it, considering that several reputed straight and honest in the cause, but poor, had no other way to maintain there selves and families, except they went to the market to sell something, for which they behoved to pay customs in that case they thought they might as well do it, as buy ale and bread, which paid excise, whereby that tyrannical power was upheld indirectly, as well as by the other, yet not to be refrained from, seeing they could not live without these.
But to return, as the questions were going through the members of the meeting, there was a young man of Dumbarton shire, found to have joined with some that payed the Cess, for which he was debarred from sitting there;
as also, another was debarred, after some debate, because of his marrying with [>p23.] Mr. Alexander Peden, and joining with some that gave meat and drink to dragoons: But that which occasioned the hottest debate and greatest confusion, was about Alexander Gordon [of Kinsture ratherthan Earlstoun], who had joined with Mr. Peden, in accepting the sacrament of Baptism to his child from him, whereupon the contest arose, one part of the meeting saying Mr. Peden might be joined with, and the other not:’
‘So seeing the matter was under debate, and could not be there and then decided, it was thought most expedient to suspend Alexander Gordon from the meeting, until enquiry and trial be made, How it was with Mr. Peden at the time, and how it was when he joined with him, that thereby it might be the better known how to proceed therein. And for this effect, James Russel promised to send one, or come himself out of Fife, and to come by Edinburgh, that one might be chosen out of Lothian to go along with him to the Monkland, where they were to get a third person to go along with them to Mr. Peden [who was then in Scotland]; which thing James Russel failed to do, and so the enquiry and trial was not made. At length, when they came to speak of the conclusion anent Earlstoun’s going abroad, the debate betwixt the one party and the other came to be so hotly handled, that they parted from one another, the one part going to the one part of the field, and the other going to another. However, those who adhered to the conclusion [of Earlstoun going abroad], drawing together, formed themselves into a meeting, whose resolutions were as follow:
In the first place, they did approve all that was done by the former meeting [i.e., the second convention], and in particular testified their adherence to all that was done in prosecuting the first appointment of the said meeting, and also their dissenting from all those who had declined the said appointment, until they see their fault therein, which was, first, to do, and then to undo, by assenting, and then dissenting. Albeit this resolution may appear at first view to be rash and precipitant, in that they withdrew from their brethren upon such grounds, yet if matters be rightly weighed, it will seem more moderate, though not altogether justifiable. If the time of resolving upon the same be considered, which was immediately upon the back of hot debates, when their spirits were aloft and Unsettled, and the edge of their zeal keen against that which they judged wrong in them. As also the extent thereof, which was not a withdrawing from them in private societies [>p24.] for prayer and conference, but only in these public and general meetings, until they saw their fault in that difientment, and likewise the occasion of sailing upon it, which was, as is mentioned above, the dissenting from the conclusion about Earlstoun’s going abroad, and continuing in it; in resolving of which they were joint and unanimous, and the same was rational, seemed necessary, and was orderly gone about.
That which followed upon this resolution, shall be shewn afterwards.
Next it was concluded by them, that betwixt and the 24th of that instant [June, 1682], every society adhering to them in that particular, of prosecuting the first appointment of the last meeting, should bring their quarterly collection in to Edinburgh.—This was in order to the helping to defray the charges of Earlstoun when he was abroad: which was accordingly done, in so far as their ability could reach.
It is here to be noted, that the societies every quarter of a year, did gather a collection of money, which was sometimes more and sometimes less, in their respective bounds, and sent with their commissioner to the General Meeting, where it was conscientiously, distributed, a part of it for public uses, wherein the whole was concerned, if any such thing called for the same, or to prisoners, of which always there was not few in several prisons, or to indigent persons in the country [i.e., fugitives], according as their need required.
Likewise it was concluded, that the first Thursday of that instant, the third Thursday of July, and first Thursday of August, were to be observed for days of public fasting, by all the societies in the kingdom, owning the Testimony.
In fine, when the meeting was near the dismissing, the dissenters from the conclusion [i.e., James Russell’s faction], sent some to those who were for it, desiring to have another meeting with them; whereupon some of either side going together, after some deliberation, condescended upon both time and place, which was to be upon the 11th day of August, at Edinburgh.’ (Shields, FCD, 21-24.)
James Renwick, the clerk of the Societies who was present at the convention, may have escaped government forces at the time of the Talla Linn convention.
A report from John Graham of Claverhouse, who was in the area at the time and nearly encountered the convention, caused considerable concern about what the ‘Traitors, Runnagates, and Fugitives’ at it were plotting.
Three weeks after the third convention, James Renwick, described the events of the convention in his first letter to Robert Hamilton.
For the previous, second, convention, see here.
For more on the third convention, see here.
For the next, fourth, convention, see here.
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