Monday, 21 July 2014

The King's Mercy.

The cruelty and slaughter which took place on Culloden Field did not end there. Government troops launched a savage programme of repression to punish Jacobite Scotland and in particular the Gaelic heart of the Highlands. In the beginning, people living near the garrison towns of Inverness, Fort Augustus and Fort William were terrorised and and whole communities hounded out. Women found sheltering a wounded or starving prisoner were strip-searched and raped. Those people found with arms were taken out and shot. Houses were plundered and burned, while all the appurtenances used to sustain life (ploughs, farming equipment, boats and fishing tackle) were destroyed. All their cattle, which was the mainstay of their economy, was plundered and sold to dealers from Lowland Scotland and Northern England. Cumberland's army shared in the handsome profits, while people whose only 'crime' was being Highland were left to starve. By mid-July 1746, the Duke of Cumberland felt that the Highlands had been 'pacified', Prince Charles was a fugitive and the Jacobite clan chiefs were either dead, in hiding or festering in English prisons. The clansmen of Gaeldom were now leaderless and starving. The new Commander-in-Chief was William Keppel, the Earl of Albemarle who had commanded the government front line at Culloden. He hated Scotland, 'this cursed country' and firmly believed in the same harsh government as Cumberland. To cut down on the large number of 'rebels' in prisons, an order in council was issued stating that henceforth prisoners who were not Gentlemen or Men of Estates, should draw lots : that out of every twenty, one should stand trial for his life, the charge being treason, and the remainder transported to the colonies. One of the first to be tried for treason was Francis Townley, Colonel of the Manchester Regiment, who was tasked with holding Carlisle during the Jacobite retreat north. The government held the ultimate punishment for someone found guilty of treason. Drinking the health of Prince Charles was enough to have you tried for treason. Found guilty of treason, the Judge passed sentence on Francis Townley 'that he be severally hanged by the neck, but not till he be dead, for he must be cut down alive; his bowels must be taken out and his genitals severed and all burned before his face; then his head must be severed from his body and his body severally divided into four quarters, each quarter to be displayed in prominent locations throughout the country.' Townley, wearing a newly tailored black velvet suit, met his dreadful fate on Kennington Common on 30 July, with courage and dignity. A further one hundred executions followed, to 'entertain' the immense crowds which assembled on Kennington Common. On 28 July there was an even greater stir on the opening of the trials of the three Jacobite peers, Lord Balermino, Lord Kilmarnock and Lord Cromartie. Horace Walpole wrote to a friend that he should be in town on the 28th 'as London will be as full as at a Coronation.' Stands had been erected within Westminster Hall with special boxes for the Prince and Princess of Wales,the Duke of Cumberland and foreign ambassadors. These were show trials at the highest levels but the judges comprising 136 dukes, earls and viscounts pronounced the expected guilty verdicts. Two of the Scottish peers, Kilmarnock and Balermino died on the block, while Lord Cromartie was given a reprieve at the last moment. Lord Lovat was arrested and transported to London, where he was found guilty on the testimony of 'Evidence Murray'(of Broughton). Lovat was unbowed, full of energy and wit during his trial, but parted this life on the executioner's block. A year after Culloden the Government still had the task of shipping over 900 prisoners to the colonies, people fortunate enough to have been granted the King's Mercy of transportation and perpetual banishment as indentured persons. Prisoners would be shipped to America for £5 a head, but many of them would die of disease in transit or, as could happen, they might be captured by a French man-of-war and then released as free people on one of the French Caribbean islands. Some prisoners were able to find clansmen or compatriots in America who might be generous enough to pay £7 to buy their indentures and give them their liberty.

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