Morton, James Douglas, Earl of

Morton, James Douglas, Earl of a Scotch nobleman, who figures quite notably in the secular as well as ecclesiastical history of his country, was the second son of Sir George Douglas of Pittendriech, and in 1553 succeeded, in right of his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of the third earl, to the title and estates of the earldom. His father was a most ardent adherent to the cause of the Reformation, and very early he also favored the same cause, and was a friend of king Henry VIII in the designs of that monarch in reference to Scotland. His name, however, does not often appear in the public transactions of the period; and although in 1557 he was one of the original Lords of the Congregation, he seems yet to have been afraid of the consequences, in a personal point of view, of casting off the queen-regent, from whom he had already received considerable favors, and therefore held a rather doubtful and irresolute course. It was for this reason that Sadler, the English envoy, describes Morton as "a simple and fearful man." The death of the queen- regent, however, completely changed the man. He now boldly came forward and avowed himself unequivocally a Protestant. Sworn a privy councillor in 1561, he was appointed lord high chancellor of Scotland, January 7, 1563, in the place forfeited by the earl of Huntly, who had been the great head of the Roman Catholic party in Scotland. He had, however, only been in office a few years when he was obliged to quit it; for, having been one of the chief conspirators against Rizzio, the Italian secretary of queen Mary, on his assassination, March 9, 1566, he fled with his associates to England, and remained there until, through the interest of the earl of Bothwell, he obtained his pardon from the queen. Bothwell, unprincipled as he was, no doubt helped Morton because he hoped, in turn, to be obliged; and no sooner was the earl reinstated in favor with the queen than Bothwell opened to him the plot which he meditated for the murder of Darnley, expecting, of course, Morton's ready acquiescence. In this, however, Bothwell was mistaken; Morton refused to concur. But neither did he inform Darnley of the plot, nor take any measures to prevent its being executed; and he was one of those who subscribed the famous bond to protect Bothwell against the charge of being concerned in the murder, and to use every endeavor to promote his marriage with the queen. Yet when this latter event took place, and when Bothwell became odious to the nation, Morton was the great leader in opposition to him; and it was to the castle of his relative, the lady of Lochleven, that Mary was conducted when she delivered herself up at Carbery Hill. When Mary was securely lodged in this place of confinement, the earl of Murray was made regent of the kingdom, and Morton reinstated in the office of lord chancellor. He continued in this situation during the regencies of Murray, Lennox, and Mar, and was indeed a principal actor in all matters of importance which took place in their time; and on Mar's death, at the end of the year 1572, Morton was himself appointed regent of the kingdom. While in the regency Morton played an important part for the ecclesiastical history of Scotland. The court and the Kirk were at this time involved in much controversy, because the former was bent upon the introduction of the episcopacy. The conflict had begun previous to the death of Knox (November 1572), for the purpose of securing to the Church the revenues of the episcopal sees; and a convention of superintendents and other, ministers favorable to the design had been held in Leith in August 1572, and had declared that the titles of bishop and archbishop should be restored, provided that with the restoration of titles no greater authority was delegated than was possessed by the superintendents, and that they be elected by the ministers of the respective dioceses. The primary object was to prevent the property passing into the hands of the nobles and courtiers. But the General Assembly, which convened shortly after the convention, condemned the innovation, and hence arose a conflict with the regent, who favored the action of the convention which he had been instrumental in calling. He had himself an interest in the successful issue of this movement; he cared less for the Church's interest than he did for his own, his object being ostensibly to place these bishops in positions to draw the income of the benefice, but really to secure for himself and other nobles a larger part of the revenues from those ecclesiastics whom he should help to elevate to such stations; and hence these episcopal incumbents were called tulchaan bishops — a tulchan being a calfskin stuffed with straw, which the country people set up beside a cow to induce her to give her milk. The bishop, it was said, had the title, but my lord had the milk. This conflict between the tulchan episcopacy and the Church establishment, supported by legal enactments, continued until the close of the earl's regency, when it was brought to a successful termination for the Kirk's interests by the efforts of that worthy follower of John Knox, the learned and resolute and noble-souled Andrew Melville (q.v.). SEE SCOTLAND, CHURCH OF. In this struggle with the Kirk, as well as in secular affairs, Morton displayed great vigor and ability, yet at the same time his ambition, his avarice, and rapacity, and his general want of principle, became apparent to all; he was now at once feared and hated; and finding himself becoming odious to the nation, and knowing that the young king, James VI, desired to assume the reins of government, Morton finally resigned the regency in March 1578. Subsequently obtaining possession of the castle of Stirling, with the person of the king, he recovered his authority, and by the help of queen Elizabeth retained it for some time; but at length the king's new favorite, captain Stewart, who, as Robertson says, shunned no action, however desperate, if it led to power or favor, charged him in the king's presence with being accessory to the murder of Darnley, and thus procured Morton's incarceration. Elizabeth used every endeavor in favor of Morton, but the greater the solicitude which she showed for his safety, the more eagerly did his enemies urge his destruction; and being carried by captain Stewart, then earl of Arran, into Edinburgh, he was, on June 1, 1581, brought to trial, found guilty, and condemned to death. When that part of the verdict was read which, besides finding that he had concealed, found that he was also accessory to the murder, he repeated the words with vehemence, and then exclaimed, " God knows it is not so." The next morning, speaking of the crime for which he was condemned, he admitted that on his return from England, after the death of Rizzio, Bothwell had informed him of the conspiracy against Darnley, which the queen, as he told him, knew of and approved, but he had no hand in it. And as to revealing the plot, "To whom," said he, "could I reveal it? To the queen? She was aware of it. To Darnley? He was such a babe that there was nothing told to him but he would tell to her again; and the two most powerful noblemen in the kingdom, Bothwell and Huntly, were the perpetrators. I foreknew and concealed the plot, but as to being art and part in its execution, I call God to witness I am wholly innocent." When his keepers told him that the guards were attending, and all was in readiness, he replied, "I thank my God, I am ready likewise." On the scaffold his behavior was calm, his countenance and voice unaltered, and after some time spent in acts of devotion, he was beheaded by the instrument called the Maiden, June 3, 1581. See Froude, Hist. of England, 7:306 sq.; 8:250 sq.; 10:53 sq.; 11:96, et al.; Burke, Peerage of England; Burton, Hist. of Scotland; Robertson, Hist. of Scotland; Spottiswood, Hist. of the Chnurch of Scotland, 2:171-195; Butler, Manual of Eccles. Hist. 2:550-553; English Cyclopacdia (Biographical Department, volume 4: s.v.).

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