United societies: militancy, martyrdom and the presbyterian movement in late-restoration Scotland, 1679 to 1688
This thesis examines the politics, plots and strategies of the militant presbyterian radicals of the United Societies, or later Covenanters, in their confrontation with the Restoration regime of Charles II and James VII in Scotland, and with the presbyterian movement between 1679 and 1688. Chapter one analyses the correlation between the Societies’ lay network and the pattern of militant presbyterian dissent. It outlines their core platform defined by their declarations and strict adherence to the Covenants. It discusses the formation of the United Societies out of the fragmentation of the presbyterian movement from the Bothwell debates to the creation of a coherent Cameronian platform and militant network in 1681. Chapter two analyses the Societies’ schisms, persecution and martyrdoms between 1682 and 1684 and argues that the origins of their apocalyptic war against their persecutors lay in their political isolation and persecution from both the regime and their former moderate brethren. Chapter three looks at the Societies’ embassies to England and Friesland which redefined their relationships with other presbyterians factions. It examines their role in the Rye House Plots with English Whigs and argues that they were a turning point which isolated them from the British radical underground. It also explores their contacts with the Nadere Reformatorie in the United Provinces which led to the ordination of James Renwick who hardened the Societies’ platform, and how the handling of the embassy led to the collapse of their European network. Chapter four examines the targeted persecution of the Societies in the Killing Times and the Societies’ role in the Argyll Rising of 1685 that led to further schisms over their separation from the moderate presbyterian ministry which undermined Renwick’s leadership. Chapter five traces the revival in the Societies’ fortunes to 1688. It examines the internal struggles over the Societies’ platform and the broadening of their ministerial cadre to include Alexander Shields and others; their relations with Irish presbyterian militants; their confrontation with moderate presbyterians caused by James VII’s toleration scheme; the context and impact of Renwick’s martyrdom and the reunification of the militant factions. Chapter six surveys the Societies’ world view and their attempts to construct a Calvinist international through their attitudes towards other Calvinists in the Friesland, Bremen and Switzerland, Lutheran Prussia and Sweden, Catholic France under Louis XIV and the Holy Roman Empire, and the Muslim Turks. It also compares their views of the Huguenots, Waldenses of Piedmont and Kurucs of Hungary, and the experiences of those banished to Barbados and the North American Colonies. It concludes that the Societies played a more significant and distinct role in the conflict between the presbyterian movement and the Stuart monarchy than previously thought; that their struggle and militancy were shaped by different political contexts, as demonstrated in their response to the Revolution in Scotland of 1688 to 1689, rather than simply religious conviction; and that the legacy of their martyrs, quickly subsumed into presbyterian tradition, became a justification for the Revolution settlement and a source of contention between radical and reactionary traditions.