Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fletcher, Andrew (1655-1716)

FLETCHER, ANDREW (1655–1716), Scotch patriot, born in 1655 at Salton (formerly Saltoun), East Lothian, was the son and heir of Sir Robert Fletcher (1625–1664), a country gentleman of good estate, at whose pressing instance Gilbert Burnet [q. v.], afterwards bishop of Salisbury, became parish minister of Salton in 1665. In his epicedial ‘discourse’ on his patron Burnet describes him as a man of singular devoutness, very charitable, and somewhat a cultivator of philosophy and science. Sir Robert is said (Buchan, p. 6) to have expressed a desire on his deathbed that Burnet should superintend the education of his son, then a boy of ten, and this Burnet seems to have done during the remaining five years of his stay at Salton. Their acquaintance long survived this connection, and Burnet, in the ‘History of his own Time’ (iii. 24), speaks of Fletcher as ‘a Scotch gentleman of great parts and many virtues, but a most violent republican, and extremely passionate.’ Fletcher became one of the most accomplished Scotchmen of his time. While young, he made a tour on the continent, and after his return to Salton soon became a marked man through his local opposition to Lauderdale. In July 1680 he was rebuked by the Scotch privy council for obstructing the drafting of a number of men from the militia into the standing force maintained to overawe presbyterian malcontents (Fountainhall, Hist. Notices, i. 270). In the Scotch convention of estates which met in June 1678 Fletcher sat as a commissioner for his county ({{sc|Fountainhall}, Hist. Observes, ‘Accompt of the Convention of Estates,’ &c., pp. 270–1), the statement in the official lists of that assembly (Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland, viii. 214; Members of Parliament: Return to the House of Commons, 1878, pt. iii. p. 583) that ‘a James Fletcher’ was one of the commissioners for East Lothian being undoubtedly incorrect. He voted in it with the Duke of Hamilton in opposition to Lauderdale's policy. He was punished as a malcontent by having soldiers quartered on him, and a petition which he and others presented, complaining of this proceeding as ‘contrare to law,’ was ‘much resented’ by the council (Fountainhall, Hist. Notices, i. 281). He was again a commissioner for East Lothian in the Scotch parliament which met in July 1681, and he industriously opposed the measures of Lauderdale's successor, the Duke of York. Sir John Dalrymple, in a statement seemingly unsupported (pt. i. bk. i. p. 39), asserts that Fletcher broached the successful proposal to make a profession of presbyterianism part of the test which was imposed by that parliament (cf. Wodrow, iii. 298, and Burnet, ii. 301–2, who differ materially as to the early history of the test). Certainly he had the courage with only one other member to record a protest against the provision of the act which made subscription to the test imperative on county electors, as well as on their representatives (Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland, viii. 245). He is said to have addressed to members of the parliament anonymous letters beseeching them to oppose the Duke of York's succession (Fountainhall, Hist. Observes, p. 209). In April 1682, as a commissioner of cess and excise, he, with some colleagues, was again brought before the privy council on a charge of not having levied a local tax to be applied in supplying the soldiery with corn (Fountainhall, Hist. Notices, i. 352). Fletcher took part in the exodus of Scotch malcontents which followed the condemnation of Archibald, ninth earl of Argyll [q. v.], for refusing more than a qualified acceptance of the test. It is said (Fountainhall, Hist. Observes, p. 214) that when he was about this time an exile at Brussels the Duke of York asked the Spanish governor there to have him arrested. Hearing of this Fletcher came secretly to London and was taken into the confidence of Monmouth, Russell, and Sydney, who were planning their movement for a change in the system of government. With its collapse and Monmouth's flight to Holland, Fletcher left England and was for a time in Paris, where Lord Preston, Charles II's envoy extraordinary to Louis XIV, wrote to Halifax, 5 Oct. 1683: ‘Here is one Fletcher, laird of Salton, lately come from Scotland. He is an ingenious but a violent fanatic, and doubtless hath some commission, for I hear he is very busy and very virulent’ (Appendix to Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. 343 b). Fletcher is next heard of as in Holland, and as one of the most intimate associates and advisers there of Monmouth, from whom he hoped for at the very least the convocation of a ‘free parliament’ in England. In spite of his impetuosity Fletcher was earnest in dissuading Monmouth from imprudent enterprises. He was strongly opposed to Argyll's disastrous expedition to Scotland, and to Monmouth's own expedition to England (Burnet, iii. 25, from Fletcher's own information; Ferguson, p. 210). To Lord Grey of Wark's argument in its favour, founded on the success of Henry VII's expedition, Fletcher replied that Henry reckoned, as Monmouth could not, on the support of a strong party of powerful English nobles (Burnet, ib.)

Fletcher nevertheless sailed with Monmouth and landed at Lyme 11 June 1685. On the 13th he was to have been joined with Lord Grey in the command of a troop of horse in an expedition to Bridport. He rode, or insisted on riding, a fine charger brought in that day by one Dare, who also accompanied the duke to England. Dare, formerly a disaffected goldsmith and alderman of Taunton, joined the refugees in Holland, and made himself useful to them and to Monmouth by aiding them to communicate with their friends in England. After having been Monmouth's secretary he was appointed paymaster of the expeditionary force, and much benefit to the enterprise was expected from his knowledge of the district and his old connection with Taunton. Dare angrily disputed Fletcher's claim to the use of his horse, and after having reviled him for some time shook a switch at him, on which Fletcher drew a pistol and shot him dead. Monmouth was forced to part with Fletcher, who embarked on board the vessel which had been hired to bring the expedition to England, and the papers of which were made out for Bilbao. According to Lord Buchan (p. 18) Fletcher told his friend Keith, the earl marischal, that he quitted Monmouth, not on account of the Dare incident, but out of disgust at Monmouth's proclamation of himself at Taunton as king. But the Dare catastrophe occurred on 13 June, and Monmouth was not proclaimed king at Taunton until the 20th. The contemporary authorities, while differing more or less as to details, agree that the death of Dare alone produced Fletcher's separation from Monmouth. Fletcher was incapable of falsehood. Keith must have misunderstood or misreported him (cf. Buchan, ib.; Burnet, iii. 44–5; Roberts, i. 272–4; Ferguson, 221–2; State Trials, xi. 1055).

According to the earl marischal's further reports of conversations with him (see Buchan, pp. 19–23) Fletcher was thrown into prison soon after he landed at Bilbao, and his extradition was demanded by the English minister at Madrid. He is represented to have made a romantic escape from prison, and then to have wandered through Spain in disguise, viewing the country and the people, studying in the conventual libraries, and purchasing rare and curious books, some of which found their way to his library at Salton. When his Spanish wanderings were over, he went to Hungary and fought as a volunteer against the Turks (ib. p. 22, with a reference to family manuscripts), whom in one of his writings Fletcher calls ‘the common enemy of mankind.’ In his absence he was tried at Edinburgh, 4 Jan. 1686, for treasonable complicity in Monmouth's rebellion, when he was sentenced to death and his estate forfeited. One of the two witnesses on whose evidence he was condemned described him as ‘a little man,’ wearing ‘a brown periwig, of a lean face, pock-marked’ (State Trials, xi. 1054). Of the amnesty proclaimed by James II in his letter to the parliament of Scotland, 29 April 1686 (Acts, &c., viii. 879–80), Fletcher, unlike some other Scotchmen in his predicament, did not avail himself, because it was given in virtue of ‘the dispensing power,’ and not by an act of the legislature (see Buchan, p. 30, &c.)

Fletcher joined William of Orange at the Hague in 1688, and with the revolution returned to Scotland. He was not a member of the Scottish convention which met 14 March 1689, and which became a parliament in June 1690, when his estates were restored to him by a special act. He became, however, one of the busiest members of ‘the club’ (Leven and Melville Papers, p. 159), an association consisting mainly of the leaders and members of the majority of the parliamentary opposition formed soon after William's accession, ostensibly to diminish the power of the crown in Scotland. Fletcher, as a republican and a hater of English domination, naturally approved this object. He now began to attempt to create a Young Scotland and Scotch home rule party. When William Paterson proposed to form the association which became in 1695, by an act of the Scotch parliament, ‘The Company of Scotland trading with Africa and the Indies,’ the principal operation of which was the disastrous attempt to colonise the isthmus of Darien, Fletcher is said to have brought Paterson down from London to Salton, to have introduced him to his neighbour, the Marquis of Tweeddale, then minister for Scotland, and to have aided in persuading that nobleman to support the scheme (Dalrymple, vol. iii. pt. iii. p. 129; Buchan, p. 46). These statements are not supported by any contemporary authority. In the original list of shareholders (1696) Fletcher figures as the subscriber of 1,000l. to the stock of the company (Darien Papers, p. 373).

In 1698 appeared, without author's name, Fletcher's earliest published writings, three in number: 1. ‘A Discourse of Government relating to Militias,’ an able and vigorous contribution to a controversy which was at that time being fiercely waged in England. Fletcher argued that in warfare a militia was more effective than a standing army. He sketched a plan for the establishment of a national militia by the formation of camps of military instruction, in which all the adult youth of the country were to be trained and disciplined with Spartan rigour, and from which ecclesiastics were to be excluded. 2. ‘Two Discourses concerning the Affairs of Scotland, written in the year 1698.’ In the first of these Fletcher urged that the 84,000l. annually spent on maintaining a force of regulars in Scotland might be much more usefully employed in promoting industry. In the second ‘Discourse’ Fletcher proposed a sweeping measure of social reform. He estimated at two hundred thousand at that time of scarcity, and at one hundred thousand in ordinary times, the number of beggars and vagrants who infested and preyed upon Scotland. He proposed that every man of a certain estate should be obliged to take a proportional number of them into his service. They were to be servants not slaves, to call them so was to be punishable, and they were to be protected by law like ordinary servants, with the important exceptions that their servitude was to be compulsory and hereditary, and that they and their children might be ‘alienated,’ i.e. sold by their masters. Fletcher found precedents for his scheme in Scotch acts of parliament passed in 1579 and 1597, the first of which, Fletcher said, allowed the compulsory servitude of the children of beggars for a term of years, which the second extended to their lifetime. The act of 1579, as Fletcher failed to observe, permitted the compulsory servitude of even an adult beggar for a year, and this term also was extended to his lifetime by the act of 1597. In the same ‘Discourse’ Fletcher made suggestions for the improvement of the condition of the Scotch farmer. He denounced rack-renting, to which he ascribed the general poverty of Scotland. 3. ‘Discorso delle cose di Spagna scritto nel mese di Luglio, 1698,’ with the imprint ‘Napoli,’ but in all probability printed at Edinburgh. This curious Italian tractate, written at the time of the negotiation of the first partition treaty, shows how measures might be taken, unsuspected by any one except Fletcher himself, for the attainment of universal monarchy by Spain. There seems to have been a second edition of the ‘Discorso,’ to which Fletcher prefixed an ‘Aviso’ which was not in the first (see his Political Works, ed. 1737, p. 179). Fletcher returned to the subject of Spain in what professes to be ‘A Speech upon the State of the Nation in April 1701,’ but it probably never was spoken, and does not seem to have been published in Fletcher's lifetime. It attributes to William III a project for making himself an absolute monarch, in connivance with Louis XIV.

Fletcher entered, as a commissioner for East Lothian once more, the new Scotch parliament of 1703. The Scotch were irritated by the failure of the Darien scheme, and by the unsatisfactory character of the English proposals for a treaty of union. Fletcher and the national party saw an opportunity for wresting from Queen Anne a large measure of political independence for Scotland by making her acceptance of their terms a preliminary to their entering on the question of the succession. Fletcher took a very prominent part in the parliamentary controversy between the national and the court parties. On 27 May 1703 he carried a resolution to defer a grant of supply until guarantees were obtained for the security of the religion and liberties of Scotland. On 22 June he produced a draft act of security, which, if accepted by the parliament of Scotland and by Queen Anne, would have given after her death home rule to Scotland. Fletcher's scheme of security was only to take effect if Queen Anne's successor on the throne of England should also be sovereign of Scotland. He proposed that in this contingency the Scotch executive should be chosen not by the sovereign of both countries, but by a committee of the parliament of Scotland. The Scotch parliament was to meet annually, and the votes in it were to be taken by ballot. For every nobleman added to the parliament a ‘lesser baron,’ or county member, was to be added. A national militia was to be established as soon as the Act of Security became law. For these ‘limitations’ Fletcher pleaded throughout the stormy session of 1703. Among Fletcher's proposals, which were embodied in the Act of Security passed by the Scotch parliament, and in 1704 assented to by Queen Anne, was that for the immediate formation and arming of a Scotch national militia, a measure which was regarded by the English government and parliament as a menace of civil war. Another of his proposals, to deprive the sovereign of the power of declaring war and making peace, was embodied in a special act, which also was touched with the sceptre. When the queen's commissioner announced in the session of 1703 that all the acts passed by the parliament during it would be thus touched, except the Act of Security, Fletcher rose and moved a resolution declaring that ‘after the decease of her majesty we will separate our crown from that of England.’ Fletcher's defiant speeches, along with the adoption of some of the measures advocated in them, contributed powerfully to induce Queen Anne's advisers to revive, this time successfully, the project of a legislative union of England and Scotland.

Fletcher issued, without his name, in the year of their delivery, ‘Speeches by a Member of the Parliament which began at Edinburgh the 6th of May, 1703.’ In 1704 appeared, also anonymously, the most attractive, to modern readers, of his political writings, ‘An Account of a Conversation concerning a Right Regulation of Governments for the common good of Mankind. In a Letter to the Marquis of Montrose, the Earls of Rothes, Roxburg, and Haddington, from London the 1st of December, 1703’—a dialogue described in the text as between Fletcher himself, the Earl of Cr[o]m[a]rty, Sir Ed[ward] S[ey]m[ou]r, and Sir Chr[istopher] M[u]sgr[a]ve. Fletcher supports his theories with much dramatic force against his interlocutors. In the ‘imaginary conversation’ occurs an often quoted and misquoted remark of Fletcher's. ‘I knew,’ he says, ‘a very wise man so much of Sir Christopher's sentiment that he believed if a man were permitted to make all the ballads he need not care who should make the laws of a nation.’ In the remaining sessions, 1704 to 1707, of the Scotch parliament Fletcher continued very active, but with diminished influence, the majority deciding on assenting to the union. In all its sessions he displayed great irritability, the assembly having on several occasions to interfere to prevent him fighting duels with the Duke of Hamilton and Lord Stair, among others (see Sir David Hume, pp. 147, 160, &c., and a detailed narrative of a duel just on the point of being fought by him in Burton's Queen Anne, i. 164–5). Once, July 1705 (Sir David Hume, p. 167), he seems to have gone the length of proposing that the (first) king of Prussia should be named successor to Queen Anne in the sovereignty of Scotland. He and the Jacobites voted together against the chief clauses of the Act of Union. It had been touched by the sceptre when, 27 Jan. 1707, he made his last noticeable appearance in the last parliament of Scotland, with a motion, apparently successful, incapacitating noblemen's eldest sons for election by the expiring Scotch legislature to the first union parliament of Great Britain.

Fletcher was one of the members of the motley party opposed to the union who, in April 1708, were brought in custody to London on a suspicion of having been privy to the attempted French invasion of Scotland in the previous month in the interest of the Pretender (Boyer, History of Queen Anne, ed. 1722, p. 338); but he was soon discharged, and with this incident he disappeared from public life. What is known of his subsequent career entitles him to a place among the early improvers of Scotch agriculture. In Holland he had been struck by the efficacy of the mill-machinery used there for removing the husk of barley and converting it into ‘pot’ barley, and of the fanners for winnowing corn. In 1710 he engaged James Meikle, an ingenious millwright in the neighbourhood of Salton, father of the better known Andrew Meikle, to go to Amsterdam and, under his direction, to see to the construction of such portions of the ironwork of the barley-mills as could not easily be made in Scotland. Meikle took them to Salton and there erected a barley-mill, which found constant employment (cf. Allardyce, ii. 70, where the Salton mill is said to have been erected upon a plan made from memory by ‘William Adam, the architect,’ doubtless the father of the three brothers Adam). ‘Salton barley’ became conspicuous on the signboard of almost every Scotch retailer of such articles, yet for more than forty years that barley-mill remained the only one in Great Britain, Ireland, or America. Fanners also were erected at Salton, but apparently not until a few years after Fletcher's death (Hepburn, pp. 145–6; Smiles, p. 198). Fletcher died in London in September 1716, and his remains were taken to Salton, where they were deposited, and rest in the family burial-vault.

Fletcher's ardent, courageous, and disinterested patriotism raise him far above the Scotch politicians of his time. Historians from Wodrow to Macaulay unite in bearing testimony to his worth. Hume calls him ‘a man of signal probity and fine genius’ (History of England, ed. 1854, vi. 396). The Jacobite Lockhart of Carnwath, who sat with him in the Scotch parliament of 1703–7, declared him (p. 75) to be ‘so steadfast to what he thought right that no hazard nor advantage, no, not the universal empire, nor the gold of America, could tempt him to yield or desert it.’ The strict Wodrow (iv. 227), after speaking of him as ‘one of the brightest of our gentry, remarkable for his fine taste in all manner of polite learning, his curious library, his indefatigable diligence in every thing he thought might benefit and improve his country,’ praises the ‘sobriety, temperance, and good management’ which he exhibited in private life. As a writer he is superior to any Scotchman of his age, and his oratory, nervous and incisive, is made eloquent by his sincerity and earnestness. His chief fault was his irritability of temper. The story retailed to Mrs. Calderwood during her journey in Holland (Coltness Papers, pp. 166–7, and reproduced in Chambers, iii. 319 n.) of a Dutch skipper deliberately sent out of the world by ‘old Fletcher of Salton’ from a dislike of his tobacco-smoking, may have been meant to refer to the patriot, though this is by no means certain, since the date of her narrative is 1756, forty years after his death. If told of him it is probably apocryphal. Macky (p. 223) describes him as ‘a low,’ i.e. short, ‘thin man, brown complexion, full of fire, with a stern, sour look.’ He died unmarried.

All the writings of Fletcher previously mentioned are contained in the first collection of his ‘Political Works,’ London, 1737; the ‘Character of the Author, from a MS. in the Library of the late Thomas Rawlinson,’ prefixed to it, and often reprinted subsequently with the same account of its source, being simply that given by Macky in the volume already quoted from. In the next edition of the ‘Political Works,’ Glasgow, 1747, the ‘Discorso delle cose di Spagna’ appears in an English translation solely. The volume, London, 1798, professing to contain the ‘Political Works,’ gives only Fletcher's ‘Discourse on Militias’ and the ‘Account of a Conversation,’ ‘with notes, &c., to which is prefixed a sketch of his life, with observations, moral, philosophical, and political, by R. Watson, M.D.’ The life is valueless. To Lord Buchan's ‘Memoir’ are appended Fletcher's parliamentary speeches of 1703. ‘An Historical Account of the Ancient Rights and Power of the Parliament of Scotland,’ &c., published anonymously at Edinburgh in 1703, and reprinted at Aberdeen in 1823 as ‘undoubtedly’ written by Fletcher, may be pronounced to have been undoubtedly not written by him were it only because a very complimentary reference is made in it to the author of the ‘Discourse of Government with relation to Militias.’ The catalogue of the Edinburgh Advocates' Library attributes to Fletcher two pamphlets, nowhere else referred to, in connection with him: 1. ‘Scotland's Interest, or the great Benefit and Necessity of a Communication of Trade with England,’ &c., 1704. 2. ‘State of the Controversy betwixt United and Separate Parliaments,’ &c. Neither of these pamphlets is in the Library of the British Museum. Fletcher left behind him a manuscript ‘Treatise on Education,’ of which nothing seems now to be known. The library which he formed is still preserved at Salton Hall, in a room built expressly for it in 1775 by his grand-nephew, also an Andrew Fletcher.

[Fletcher's writings; Earl of Buchan's Essays on the Lives and Writings of Fletcher of Saltoun and the Poet Thomson (1792): Biographical, Critical, and Political, 1792; Bishop Burnet's History of his own Time, ed. 1823; Wodrow's History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland, 1829–30; Fountainhall's Historical Observes of Memorable Occurrences in Church and State, 1840, and Historical Notices of Scottish Affairs, 1847–8 (Bannatyne Club); Sir David Hume of Crossrigs' Diary of the Proceedings in the Parliament … of Scotland, 1700–7 (Bannatyne Club); Lockhart Papers, 1817; Macky's Memoirs, 1733; Sir John Dalrymple's Memoirs of Great Britain and Ireland, ed. 1790; G. Roberts's Life, &c., of James, Duke of Monmouth, 1844; J. Ferguson's Robert Ferguson the Plotter, 1887; Howell's State Trials; J. Hill Burton's History of Scotland, 2nd edit. 1873, and History of the Reign of Queen Anne, 1880; R. Chambers's Domestic Annals of Scotland, 1858–61; Allardyce's Scotland and Scotsmen in the Eighteenth Century (from the manuscripts of John Ramsay of Ochtertyre), 1888; G. Buchan Hepburn's General View of the Agriculture and Rural Economy of East Lothian, 1794; Smiles's Lives of the Engineers, ‘Andrew Meikle;’ other authorities cited; family information; communications from Sir W. Fraser, deputy-keeper of the Records of Scotland. The chief authority for a life of Fletcher is the quasi-biographical rhapsody of David Steuart Erskine [q. v.], the eccentric (eleventh) earl of Buchan (1742–1829), who did not turn to much account the papers relating to Fletcher which were lent to him from the family archives, and which were afterwards, unfortunately, lost. When Lord Buchan's statements can be tested, he is too often found untrustworthy. Before the papers were lost they were also consulted by the writer of the memoir of Fletcher in the third edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, 1797. He extracted from them the interesting statement that while the Jacobite George Keith, the well-known (tenth) earl marischal, who had been with Fletcher a member of the Scotch parliament of 1703–7, was governor of Neufchatel, he asked Rousseau to write a life of Fletcher, for which he promised the needful material. There are brief reports of several of Fletcher's parliamentary speeches, sometimes given as those of a nameless ‘member,’ in Boyer's Annals of Queen Anne, 1703–7, but the most instructive indications of his parliamentary career are in Sir David Hume's Diary. Some depreciatory remarks on Fletcher's parliamentary influence and tactics in the manuscript memoirs of Sir John Clerk are quoted in Somerville's History of Great Britain during the Reign of Queen Anne, p. 204 n., and in Howell's State Trials, xi. 1050 n. The Retrospective Review (first series), vol. iv. part i., contains an article on ‘Fletcher's Political Writings.’ There are interesting references to Fletcher and his schemes, political and social, in Lord Macaulay's History of England, and still more of the kind in Dr. Hill Burton's History of Scotland. A brief notice appears in Anderson's Scottish Nation.]

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