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Reference group
Jacobite activists of the 1715 rising (act. 1715–1716) were largely members of the nobility and gentry, highland chiefs and clansmen, and former ministers of Queen Anne with no prospect of favour under George I, who instead saw their political aspirations being met by the overthrow of George I and his replacement by James Francis Edward (James Stuart), the son and heir of James II and VII. James had been formally deposed in 1689; those who sought his restoration, and after his death in 1701 the installation of his son on the English and Scottish thrones, were called Jacobites, derived from Jacobus, the Latin form of James.

The origins of the Jacobite rising of 1715 lay in the union of Scotland and England of 1707. The overwhelming majority of the Scots Jacobites who turned out to fight in 1715 were inspired to do so by their hostility to the union, which they regarded as a shameful and unnecessary surrender of Scotland's sovereignty. Their principal co-ordinator was John Erskine, twenty-second or sixth earl of Mar, who had managed government patronage in Scotland in the latter years of Anne's reign, and had ensured that some of it went to potential Jacobites to reconcile them with the political settlement; Mar, like other tory ministers, found that he had no political future under George I. In addition, the great majority of the Jacobites, including Mar and such other luminaries as Alexander Forbes, fourth Lord Forbes of Pitsligo, were episcopalian in religion and thus bitterly in conflict with the prevailing order in kirk and state in Scotland. Associated with this religious-ideological hostility to the status quo there was, furthermore, a gathering conviction of divine sanction for their cause within the Jacobite community, which in turn predisposed the Scottish Jacobites to believe the stream of reports from England of social disorder verging on civil war that arrived in Scotland in the spring and early summer of 1715.

In England a number of tory former ministers, like James Butler, second duke of Ormond, Henry St John, first Viscount Bolingbroke, George Granville, Baron Lansdowne, and Sir William Wyndham, had been angered and alarmed by George I's turn to the whigs in the autumn of 1714 and their impeachment of Robert Harley, earl of Oxford, Bolingbroke, Ormond, and others in the spring of 1715, and had begun to plot a rising that aimed at replacing the house of Hanover with the exiled Stuarts and thus permanently driving the whigs from power. These English conspirators were initially very cautious, but were then encouraged by the popular tory reaction to the party's election defeat at the beginning of the year and the subsequent impeachments: widespread rioting across the length and breadth of England. This seems to have been primarily inspired by plebeian tory fear for the security of the Church of England, and only occasionally manifested Jacobite sympathies. The riots were, none the less, taken to be proof that England and Wales were ripe for rebellion and these leading tories began secretly negotiating for help from France. Louis XIV was certainly interested in fomenting trouble in the British Isles, and thus willing to supply arms and even to facilitate the passage of James Stuart to England, but he refused to envisage renewed war on a grand scale by invading the British Isles. Despite the best efforts of Bolingbroke and Ormond—who had both fled to France—and James Fitzjames, duke of Berwick, the negotiations accordingly stalled, though not before John Dalrymple, second earl of Stair, and British minister plenipotentiary to France, had got wind of what was afoot and warned the government at Westminster. George I promptly addressed parliament on the danger, and both houses quickly voted to increase the size of the army and suspend the Habeas Corpus Act. Hundreds of suspected Jacobites were soon being arrested throughout England and Wales, and troops were quartered in disaffected areas, most notably London, the Black Country, Bristol, and Oxford. This seems effectively to have killed the conspiracy in southern and central England, so that in October when Ormond managed to slip out of France past the Royal Navy squadrons cruising off the French Atlantic coast and sail to the west country, his signals to the putative Jacobite conspirators ashore went unanswered. Only in northern England did some of the English conspirators remain at large and subsequently begin their own rising at the beginning of October.

The Scots Jacobites, however, were unaware of the collapse of the English conspiracy, having been assured by Mar that the English were still ready to rise as soon as someone drew off some of the troops garrisoning their part of the country. Mar left London in disguise on 9 August with a war chest of £7000 provided by the English Jacobites, and sailed to Scotland, where he arrived on 19 August. He then spent the next three weeks persuading the leaders of the Scots Jacobites that they should rise, telling some the French were committed to intervene, others that the revolution would be nationwide and would sweep out the Hanoverians and their whig allies without even the necessity of fighting, and still others that if only the Scots would take the lead the English would follow. During this period some Scottish Jacobite leaders were arrested, including George Lockhart of Carnwath; but through Mar's persuasiveness, and their own inclination to seize the time, the great majority of the leadership of the Scottish Jacobite community chose to rise in favour of a Stuart restoration, even despite the death of Louis XIV on 21 August.

The date usually given for the outbreak of the Jacobite rising of 1715 is 6 September, when Mar proclaimed James Francis Edward Stuart King James VIII of Scotland at Kirkmichael in Braemar, Aberdeenshire, and raised a newly made royal standard in the presence of some 200 of his armed tenantry and thirty or so mounted gentry. In fact the rising had been intended to begin around 15 September and for over a week Mar was the only one in arms, apart from a body of local Jacobite conspirators, aided by James Drummond, heir to the earl of Perth, who botched an attempt to seize Edinburgh Castle on 8 September. The outbreak of the 'Fifteen in the rest of Scotland after 14 September very much corresponded to these highly localized and piecemeal initiatives. On that day William Mackintosh of Borlum at the head of 200 Mackintosh clansmen seized Inverness in the name of James VIII. Over the next month Mackintosh was followed by a steady stream of other Jacobite gentry and nobility such as William Mackenzie, fifth earl of Seaforth; James Maule, fourth earl of Panmure; Alexander Gordon, marquess of Huntly (future second duke of Gordon); and many others.

These local risings then coalesced into three regional Jacobite armies: a northern army, composed of contingents from various clans, commanded by Seaforth; a central army, consisting of both highland and lowland levies, commanded by Mar; and a western army, composed entirely of clansmen, including the Macdonalds of Glengarry, who were led by their chieftain, Alasdair Macdonnell (d. 1721). At the end of the month John Hay of Cromlix led a party of Fife gentry and Jacobite townsmen in seizing Perth, and this became Mar's base and the de facto Jacobite capital until the end of January 1716. By then the Jacobites had secured loose control of most of Scotland north of the Tay. In early October Seaforth dispersed an attempted loyalist counter-offensive, negotiated a ceasefire with the chastened loyalists, and marched south to join Mar. The western Jacobite army meanwhile only slowly assembled in Strathfillan under General Alexander Gordon of Auchintoul before marching into Argyll in mid-October with the aim of capturing Inverary Castle, seat of the duke of Argyll, a leading whig. After some desultory skirmishing it negotiated another ceasefire at the end of October and marched away eastward to join the main Jacobite army at Perth.

Mar, meanwhile, had been engaged in a frantic effort to train and equip his forces at Perth preparatory to fighting the small government army encamped at Stirling, which was commanded by the duke of Argyll. Jacobite and government forces were also skirmishing throughout Stirlingshire and Fife, and on the night of 12–13 October Mar managed to slip Mackintosh of Borlum across the Firth of Forth into Midlothian with approximately 1400 men. This force was prevented from capturing Edinburgh by the timely arrival of Argyll at the head of a few hundred dragoons and mounted infantry, and instead veered away towards the Scottish borders. There it met at Kelso a small force of border Scots and Northumbrian Jacobites led by Thomas Forster, James Radcliffe, third earl of Derwentwater, and William Gordon, sixth Viscount Kenmure, and including Robert Dalzell, fifth earl of Carnwath, William Widdrington, fourth Baron Widdrington, a party from Atholl led by one of the (whig) duke of Atholl's Jacobite sons, Lord Charles Murray, and Philip Lockhart, brother of George Lockhart of Carnwath. Unsure what to do next, this southern Jacobite army meandered west along the old Anglo-Scottish frontier until the end of October and then marched into north-western England, hoping to spark a general uprising among the English tories. After easily dispersing the posse comitatus of Cumberland and Westmorland at Penrith, the army moved south through Lancaster to Preston, picking up some—mainly Catholic—recruits on the way. At Preston it was attacked by Major-General Charles Wills and though the Jacobite army repulsed his assaults with heavy losses it was effectively trapped by the arrival of Lieutenant-General George Carpenter with government reinforcements and, after a failed attempt at negotiation led by Henry Oxburgh, was forced to surrender on 14 November.

Only a few days before this Mar united all three Jacobite armies still in Scotland at Auchterarder and marched south towards Stirling, intending to force a passage of the Forth either there or at the head of the river in the Menteith hills. To Mar's surprise, however, Argyll boldly advanced out of Stirling and confronted the Jacobite army north of Dunblane at Sheriffmuir on 13 November. Though Argyll had only about 3600 men to Mar's approximately 9000, he had no hesitation in attacking and soon routed the Jacobite army's left wing and centre, badly wounding Panmure, chasing off George Keith, tenth Earl Marischal, among others, and capturing more, including William Drummond, fourth viscount of Strathallan. At the same time the Jacobite right wing, including Alasdair Macdonnell, fell on Argyll's left and chased it from the field. The battle thus ended in total confusion with neither side clearly victorious. Both sides retired towards their respective bases that night, and during the retreat and over the next few days something in the region of half the Jacobite army deserted. This precipitated an abortive attempt to negotiate a surrender on the part of a Jacobite ‘peace’ party led by John Sinclair, master of Sinclair, and Huntly. When that failed the Jacobites were left with no choice but to continue in arms in the hope that something would turn up. In the event all this gained them was a brief encounter with James Stuart, who arrived at Peterhead with only two servants in attendance on 22 December.

At the end of January 1716 Argyll, seconded by Lieutenant-General William Cadogan, advanced north to Perth through thick snow and epically cold weather with a force of over 9000 men, including many Dutch and Swiss auxiliaries. Rather than defend Perth, James and Mar ordered the Jacobite army (by this time down to about 5000 men) to retreat north via Angus towards Aberdeenshire with Argyll in pursuit. At Montrose James decided the situation was hopeless and on 4 February secretly took ship for France with Mar, leaving the remnants of the Jacobite army with orders to negotiate the best surrender terms they could. It duly continued its retreat north to Ruthven in Badenoch and there dispersed. Argyll at that point handed over command to Cadogan, who completed the suppression of the rebellion with a brief campaign in the western highlands in the early spring, during which most of the remaining Jacobite holdouts, such as Macdonnell of Glengarry and Robert MacGregor (Rob Roy), submitted to the government, or, like Hay, Marischal, Marischal's brother James Francis Edward Keith, Arthur Elphinstone, sixth Lord Balmerino (who had actually fought for the government at Sheriffmuir), and the other Murray brothers William Murray, marquess of Tullibardine, and Lord George Murray, fled into exile.

Given the ignominious end to the rebellion there was not a great inclination towards swingeing punishment in its aftermath on the part of the Scots whigs. Though many individual members of the Scots Jacobite élite suffered financial and personal hardship for their involvement, whether as prisoners, fugitives, or exiles, the great majority were shielded, interceded for, and otherwise helped by their whig kith and kin and eventually found their way home, for the most part legally, like Laurence Oliphant of Gask. Plebeian Scots Jacobite rebels were simply disarmed, sometimes obliged to swear allegiance to George I, and then, too, sent home by Argyll and Cadogan's forces as they advanced north. The case was very different in England. There the government early on decided to use the opportunity to punish the northern English Catholic community for its involvement in the rising, and more generally to deter future potential rebels. Some forty executions of Jacobites captured at Preston accordingly followed, including Derwentwater, Kenmure, and the Revd William Paul. Paul's fellow-chaplain Robert Patten avoided Paul's fate by turning king's evidence. Others, like William Maxwell, fifth earl of Nithsdale, George Seton, fifth earl of Winton, Charles Wogan, Forster, and Mackintosh of Borlum possibly avoided execution by escaping from prison. Nicholas Wogan, Charles Wogan's brother, was pardoned, possibly because he was only fifteen when he joined the rising. A further 600 or so more humble Jacobite prisoners were transported to the American colonies and approximately another 600 either died in prison or were released when an indemnity act, passed in 1717, came into force.

Daniel Szechi


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