Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/403

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

affairs. The distrust entertained of him by the presbyterians seems to have been increased by the pressure exercised by this committee, while the episcopalians were annoyed by the gentle treatment that he managed to secure for imprisoned conventiclers.

In 1670, Leighton, now archbishop of Glasgow, who was intent upon bringing the moderate presbyterians to fall in with the measures of conciliation tentatively put forward by the crown, took Burnet with him on his progress. Upon Lauderdale's arrival a conference was arranged in his presence between Leighton and six of the preachers. On its failure Leighton sent Burnet, along with Nairn, Charteris, and three others, to argue the question afresh with the malcontents. This attempt again failing, he was once more employed as chief representative of Leighton in the same way at Paisley, and later at Edinburgh, but all attempts at accommodation were abortive. Once more Burnet, who now refused an offered bishopric, determined to leave public affairs and give himself to study and retirement.

His vacations were spent chiefly in Hamilton, where the duchess engaged him in putting in order all the papers relating to her father's and uncle's political careers. Lauderdale, who had his own reasons for anxiety as to the light which might be cast upon transactions in which he had himself been engaged, no sooner heard of this than he sent for Burnet to come to court that he might give him all the information in his power. The ‘Memoirs of the Dukes of Hamilton,’ Burnet's first historical work, was published in 1676. His investigations led in a curious way to a reconciliation between Hamilton and the court. Among the papers which he examined were found undoubted claims of the family upon the crown, for satisfaction of which Hamilton consented to concur in the court measures. This was in 1671.

Upon his obeying Lauderdale's summons to London, Burnet found himself for a while in a position of great influence with the secretary. In spite of a refusal to give up his friendship with Robert Moray, he was treated with confidence both by Lauderdale and Lady Dysart, and busied himself, though in vain, in trying to bring about a reconciliation between Lauderdale and Tweeddale. His proposals for a further indulgence to the covenanting ministers—detailed in the ‘History’—were accepted by Lauderdale, and sent down to Scotland in the shape of instructions. He was now offered the choice of four Scotch bishoprics, Edinburgh being one, but declined a preferment that would have fettered his future action.

Shortly after his return to Glasgow, Burnet in 1671 married Lady Margaret Kennedy, daughter of the first earl of Cassilis [see Burnet, Margaret]. She was considerably older than himself, and wealthy; and Burnet, in order to avoid uncharitable remarks, signed a deed, previous to the marriage, in which he relinquished all pretensions to her fortune. He had no family by her.

In 1672 Lauderdale came down to Scotland and began his changed career of violent oppression. This again alienated Hamilton, who vehemently opposed Lauderdale's measures, and induced Burnet to represent his views. Burnet states that he was now beyond measure weary of the court, and was prevailed upon only by the general opinion of his usefulness to stay in attendance. By his own account he acted a perfectly independent part, but retained confidence so entirely that a bishopric was again offered him, with the promise of the first archbishopric that should fall vacant. He was now but twenty-nine years of age. He gives a vivid account of Lauderdale's brutal and arbitrary government, which so harassed Leighton that, taking Burnet into consultation, he resolved to retire from his post. It was during these events that the ‘Vindication of the Authority, Constitution, and Laws of the Church and State of Scotland’ was compiled, wherein Burnet made himself acceptable to the higher powers by his dedication to Lauderdale and by maintaining the cause of episcopacy and the illegality of resistance merely on account of religion. This, with various controversial tracts against popery, was published in 1673, in the summer of which year Burnet went to London once more to obtain the necessary license for the publication of his ‘Memoirs of the Dukes of Hamilton.’

He now, by the favour shown him by Charles, who had made him one of his chaplains, and still more by that of James, drew upon himself the active jealousy both of Lauderdale and of his wife. On his return to Edinburgh on the day before the meeting of parliament he found that Hamilton had organised an opposition to Lauderdale, against which he argued in vain. The blame was laid upon himself by Lauderdale, who denounced him as a marplot to the king. Lauderdale was no doubt irritated by Burnet's freedom in discussing both with the king and with the duchess his conduct regarding popery. He hereupon retired to Glasgow, and remained there until the following June. It is sufficient evidence of Burnet's favour at court and of his never-failing self-confidence, that he proposed that himself and Stillingfleet, whom he introduced to the duke, should hold a conference in James's presence with the