Carstares, William

Carstares, William, a Scotch divine and politician, was born in 1649, at Cathcart, near Glasgow, and completed his studies at the Universities of London and Utrecht. While in Holland he was introduced to the prince of Orange, who honored him with his confidence. After his return to England he became connected with the party which strove to exclude James from the throne, and, on suspicion of being one of the Rye-house conspirators, he was sent to Scotland, and put to the torture of the thumbscrew, which he bore with unshrinking firmness. On his liberation he went back to Holland, and became one of the prince of Orange's chaplains. He accompanied William to England in 1688, and was appointed king's chaplain for Scotland. He was subsequently of great service in producing a reconciliation between the Scottish Presbyterians and William III. A General Assembly being about to convene, at which it was understood that there would be opposition to the oath of allegiance, the king had delivered to a messenger dispatches directing the peremptory enforcement of the act. It is said that Carstares assumed authority to stop the messenger; and, presenting himself to the king (who had gone to bed) in the middle of the night, in the guise of a petitioner for his life, forfeited by his having thus committed high treason, to have prevailed on him to dispense with the oath. Whether the anecdote be true or not, there is little doubt that his influence obtained the dispensation. He became now virtually prime minister for Scotland, and received the popular designation of "Cardinal Carstares." Even after the death of William, his knowledge of Scottish affairs, and the respect paid to his talents, left him with considerable influence. In 1704 he was chosen principal of the University of Edinburgh. He died Dec. 28, 1715. See State Papers and Letters, to which is prefixed the Life of Mr. Carstares (4to, 1714); Engl. Cyclopcedia; Hetherington, Church of Scotland, 2:216.

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