A commentary from The Scotichronicon Rev J.F.S.Gordon (1867) about the premeditated murder of Archbishop Sharp.
Mr. Wodrow, after having given the Archbishop the charitable epithet of “a bloody and perfidious man,” has the assurance to say, That he came to this fatal exit by no premeditated and formed design; but circumstances offering an occasion, it was very suddenly given into.’’ And a little thereafter, ‘‘ That he is well assured the people concerned had not the least view of this, or any design this way, till the accounts of his being near them were brought to them.” This he pursues in the following Paragraphs, and tells us the old out-dated story, which none of the party themselves ever did or do believe. “ That the design was only against Baillie Carmichael, whom having missed, they were just talking together of parting and quitting the project, when they were informed that the Archbishop’s coach was at hand.” This presently he attributes to Providence, as if God so far approved of the action that He was now pointing out the man to them [these are his words] whom He designed they should destroy, and whom He had, it seems, delivered into their hands:’ The design of this foolish and fabulous story (since for the truth of it we must entirely depend upon the assertions of the murderers themselves, who are Mr. Wodrow’s only vouchers) is to extenuate the guilt, as if the wickedness had not only been nowise premeditated, but that the Lord had directed them to it. For it is no strange thing for that faction to make God the author of their foulest actings, and when they have no arguments “ a priore, to bring this piece of Turkish Divinity as an argument `a posteriore`, viz., the success of the action to justify their villanies. But to expose this Jesuitical fiction, it were sufficient, at least for the conviction of any sober unprejudiced person, barely to set down two Informations sent over to the Privy Council from St. Andrews, taken out of the Depositions of John Millar, Tenant in Magask, and those of his family; Robert Black, Tenant in Baldinny, his wife, children, servants, cottars, &c.; William Dingwall in Caldhame, father to one of the murderers; and several other persons whose Depositions were taken at Cowpar by the Sheriff-Depute. The Informations which are lying before me are too prolix to be here inserted, but the substance of the first of them is. ‘‘ That by the Letters found about Young F—y, and other Letters found in the chest of Russel in the Kettle, one of the prime actors (which Letters are there declared to be in the custody of Captain Carnegy of Finhaven, or the Sheriff-Depute), it is more than evident that the deed had been long premeditated by the actors, and many more that his Grace was waylaid by diverse parties (as the Witnesses depone), so that whether he had gone straight to St. Andrews, or repaired to his house of Scotscraig, he could not escape them. It was also deponed, “That the nine who committed the Murder were the night before at a country place, within a mile of Craighall, called Hurleswind; and that one of them, with Andrew Turnbull, Tenant to Broomhall (who had crossed the water the same tide with his Grace), came to Kennoway about midnight, and enquired if my Lord St. Andrews was lodged at Captain Seton’s; and being told that he was, he presently returned to the rest. That on the morning of the 3d of May they were seen on Tace’s Muir, and intended to have attacked the coach on the Heath to the South of Ceres, where it seems they were in some confusion; for Rathillet’s horse ran from him, and was taken and given back to him by the gardiner of Struthers; and John Balfour, with one more, entred so far into the Town of Ceres, in pursuit of the coach, that by mistake he rode to the Minister’s gate, and quickly retired. Thereafter (as is also deponed), having still the coach in view (so grossly faise is Mr. Wodrow’s Account), they kept half a mile to the South thereof, till they came to Kinninmonth, the coach then being about Blebo-hole; and then they quickly came down from the height, and galloped through a little valley at Ladeddie Limekilns, having the top of the coach still in view, with design to have committed the Murder at the Double Dykes of Magask.” And thus the Depositions proceed to the Murder itself, &c.
In the other Information which was sent over to the Privy Council a few days thereafter, we are told from other Depositions, “That three days before the Murder, viz., the 1st of May, some of the assassins had a meeting at Miliar’s house in Magask, where they concerted the business; and it is deponed also, that the next night they lodged at Robert Black’s house in Baldinny, whose wife, they depone, was a great instigator of the fact; and that at parting, when one of them kissed her, she prayed God might bless and prosper them; and added these words, If Long Leslie (this was Mr. Alexander Leslie, Minister at Ceres) be with him, lay him on the green also. To which the ruffian answered, holding up his hand, There is the hand that shall do it.” Further it is deponed, “That the said Andrew Turnbull (who was one of the two that came to Kennoway the night before), at his return to the other assassins, encouraged them to the fact, by telling them that all the West was in arms already.”
But that this was a long and deep laid plot, not only to assassinate the Primate, but many others, and then immediately to break out into an open Rebellion, will appear to a demonstration, from two Papers (which the Author of the following Narrative had not seen when he wrote it,) one whereof was dropt at the Market Cross of Cowpar, some days before the Murder,
Copy of a Paper dropt on the Street of Cowpar, a few days before the Murder of the Archbishop of St .Andrews.
To all and sundry to whose hands these Presents shall come, but especially to the Magistrates and Inhabitants of the Town of Cowpar in Fife.
Be it known to all men, that whereas under a pretext of Law, tho most falsly, there is most abominable, illegal, and oppressive robberies and spoils committed in this Shire, by Captain Carnegie and his Souldiers, by virtue of a Precept from William Carmichael, &e., lie being authorized and held on to it by that perjured apostate Prelate Sharp, who, &c. These are therefore to declare to all that shall any ways be concerned in this villainous robbery and oppression, either by assisting, recepting, levying, or any manner of way countenancing the same, that they shall be holden as guilty thereof; and however they may think themselves for the present secured, being guarded by a military force, and those that are thus robbed despiseable, yet let them take this for a warning that they shall be handled severely, answerable to their villanies, and that by a party equal to all that dare own them, and that shortly, as God shall enable and assist them, whose names may he read in these following Letters. A, B, C. &c.
The foregoing seems to be doing its best to say the murders had `malice aforethought`. Candidly, does it matter ? It all seems so contrived and after the event to cast obloquy upon the deed. The fact remains that Sharpe was murdered by dissatisfied Covenanters and such subsidiary allegations would be unnecessary for securing a conviction; was it therefore just politics and character smearing ?.