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Richard Cameron and the Sanquhar Declaration.


Richard Cameron and the Sanquhar Declaration.

James Dodson


John Herkless.

On the 22nd of June, 1680, the first anniversary of [the Battle of] Bothwell Bridge, Richard Cameron with twenty men entered the burgh of Sanquhar; and marching in solemn procession, with drawn swords and pistols in their hands, went to the market-cross. When they had sung the words from the psalms of David, Michael Cameron stepped forward and read aloud a Declaration, which he afterwards affixed to the market-cross. These men were disowning Charles Stuart as their king. The Declaration was framed in these words:—

[The Declaration and Testimony of the True Presbyterian, Anti-prelatic, Anti-erastian, Persecuted Party in Scotland, Published at Sanquhar, June 22, 1680.]

“It is not amongst the smallest of the Lord’s mercies to this poor land, that there hath always been some, who have given their testimony against every course of defection we were guilty of; which is a token for good, that he doth not intend to cast us off altogether, but that he will leave a remnant in whom he will be gracious, if they through his grace keep themselves clean, and walk in his ways and methods, as they have been walked in and owned by predecessors of truly worthy memory, in their carrying on of our noble work of reformation, in the several steps thereof, both from Popery and Prelacy, and likewise from Erastian supremacy, so much usurped by him [i.e. Charles II.], who, it is true (so far as we know) is descended from the race of our kings, yet he hath so far departed from what he ought to have been, by his perjury, and usurping in church matters, and tyranny in matters civil, as is known by the whole land; that we have just reason to account it amongst the Lord’s great controversies against us, that we have not disowned him, and the men of his practices, whether inferior magistrates or any other, as enemies to our Lord Jesus’s crown, and the true Protestant and Presbyterian interest in these lands, our Lord’s espoused bride and church. Therefore, although we be for government and governors, such as the word of God, and our covenants allows; yet we for ourselves and all that will adhere to us, the representatives of the true Presbyterian church and covenanted nation of Scotland, considering the great hazard of lying under sin any longer, do, by these presents [i.e. this declaration], disown Charles Stuart, who hath been reigning these years bygone (or rather we may say tyrannizing) on the throne of Britain, as having any right, title, or interest to, or in the said crown of Scotland or government; as forfeited several years since, by his perjury and breach of covenant with God and his church, and usurpation of his [i.e. Christ’s] crown and royal prerogative, and many other breaches in matters ecclesiastic, and by his tyranny and breaches in the very leges regnandi in matters civil. For which reasons we declare that several years since he should have been denuded of being king, ruler, or magistrate, or having any power, or to be obeyed as such. As also we, under the banner of our Lord Jesus Christ the Captain of salvation, do declare a war with such a tyrant and usurper, and all the men of these practices, as enemies to our Lord Jesus Christ and his cause and covenant, and against all such as have any way strengthened him, sided with, or acknowledged him, in his usurpation, civil and ecclesiastic: yea, and against all such as shall any way strengthen, side with, or acknowledge him, or any other in the like usurpation and tyranny; far more against such, as would betray or deliver up our free reformed church into the bondage of Antichrist, the pope of Rome. By this we homologate our testimony at Rutherglen, the 29th of May 1679. And all the faithful testimonies of these that have gone before us, as also of these who have suffered [i.e. been executed] of late. Also we do disclaim that declaration published at Hamilton, the 13th day of June 1679, chiefly because it takes in the king’s interest, which we are several years since loosed from; as also because of the foresaid reasons, and others that we may after this (if the Lord will) publish. As also we disown and resent the reception of the Duke of York [i.e. James VII., of Scotland; later called James II., of Britain], a professed Papist, as repugnant to our principles and vows to the Most High God, and as that which is the great, though (alas!) the just reproach of our church. We also by this protest against his succeeding to the crown [which he did several years later, upon the death of his brother Charles II.], as against whatever hath been done, or any are essaying to do in this land given to the Lord in prejudice to our work of reformation. And to conclude, we hope after this none will blame us, or offend at our rewarding these that are against us, as they have done to us, as the Lord gives the opportunity. This is not to exclude any who hath declined, if they be willing to give satisfaction according to the degree of offence.” [Here ends the Sanquhar Declaration.]

In Sanquhar, more than one protestation was publicly made by rebels, but the reading of the Declaration at the market-cross in 1680 was the greatest in historic interest, as being the first scene in the drama of the revolution [called by non-Covenanters, the "Glorious Revolution"] in which the reign of the Stuarts was brought to an end. Twenty men raised the standard of rebellion and threw off allegiance to the king. Twenty men, out of a whole nation, with the forces of the crown to crush them, may appear ridiculous to the cynic smiling at the excesses of political zeal or laughing at the vagaries of religious bigotry. These men were traitors and rebels; but to what cause and to what person? They were traitors against organized tyranny that styled itself the Government of Scotland, rebels against the king in whose name they had been persecuted for abiding that freedom which he had solemnly sworn to preserve.

The scene at Sanquhar was the work of Richard Cameron. His action was rash, if a deed be rash when a man must die for it. Not many were joined with him in it. The Covenanters were all but crushed under the weight of despotism; and there were few with strength and courage to resist. Yet twenty men in Scotland in 1680 threw off Charles Stuart, as the kingdoms threw off James Stuart [James II.] in the year of the Revolution [1688].[The preceding remarks were written by John Herkless, in 1896, in his biography of Richard Cameron; the text of the Sanquhar Declaration was taken from “Testimony Bearing Exemplified,” 1791. It is interesting to see the assessment of Mr. Cameron by one who was not a Reformed Presbyterian—i.e. a Covenanter.]