| that they might hold their religious services
without restriction or fear of interruption. Hunted like wild
beasts over the moors, he accompanied them, seeking shelter
from their merciless persecutors in the caves of the earth,
or hiding amid the mists on the mountains.
He was associated with Cameron in his crusade against "
the indulgences and those who accepted them. " He was
leader of the band which, in 1679, published the " Declaration
" and burned certain Acts of Parliament at Rutherglen.
He commanded the Covenanters in their successful skirmish
with the dragoons at Drumclog, and continued to occupy the
same position till the disaster at Bothwell. After the defeat
at Bothwell he escaped to Holland, where he remained till
after the Revolution. But he was outlawed in his absence,
his property confiscated, and himself condemned to death.
For about ten years he lived a wandering and uncertain life,
being sometimes quite dependent on the charity of strangers.
Robert Hamilton returned to his native land in 1689, but,
notwithstanding all he had suffered, he was still the same
stern, unyielding covenanter. Rather than conform to any form
of Church government in which a king was the supposed head,
he still elected to hear the word of God proclaimed in barns
or by the wayside, or, when hunted like a wild beast, in glens
among the mountains.
In the Sanquhar Declaration, 1692, he and his persecuted associates
describe themselves as " a poor, wasted, misrepresented
remnant of the suffering anti-popish, anti-prelatic, anti-erastian,
anti-sectarian, true Presbyterian Church of Scotland. We disown
the publishing of that ' Declaration of His Highness William,
Prince of Orange, ' and espousing it as the state of the Church
and Kingdom of Scotland's quarrel, while he was, and yet is,
surrounded in council by an army, and by many of the old inveterate
enemies of Christ's cause and people. We declare the refusal
of our concurrence with the course now on foot, it being no
way concerted according to the ancient plea of the Scottish
Covenanters, or the Covenanted Reformation in England, Scotland,
and Ireland; but instead thereof, adjoining and concurring
with the promoters of papacy, prelacy, malignancy, etc., in
their designs, whereby the enemies of Christ are brought into
places of greatest power and trust, instead of bringing the
wheel of justice over them. "
His brother, Sir William, died some years after Robert's return
from Holland, but he did not profit much, if at all, by the
change. He was afterwards known as Sir Robert, but he
steadfastly refused to take the necessary legal steps to obtain
possession of the property, or seek to obtain the title.
The reason given for his contumacy is, " because in doing
so he could not avoid recognising the existing government
and the courts of law. " There is no doubt whatever that
Sir Robert was in real earnest in refusing to bend the knee
in supplication to king or government; but there were other
reasons, some of which he would have found it exceedingly
difficult to get over before he could find favour in the eyes
of those in authority. For had he not been privy to the publication
of the Declaration of 1692, in which the king and his government
were disowned, and for which seditionary act he and several
others had already been arrested and imprisoned?
Sir Robert was ultimately brought before the Justiciary Court
for the part he had played in the " Declaration, "
but he refused to own the court, or plead before it. He would
not swerve from the position he had taken up, and was sent
back to prison. But after a while the authorities, thinking
they had nothing to fear from such a man, ordered his release.
On the 21st of October 1701, Sir Robert Hamilton, still in
the prime of life, died at Bo'ness after a lingering illness.
It is not recorded that Robert ever paid a visit to his paternal
estate at Preston, either during his youth or his years of
maturity. Indeed, if he did not form an acquaintanceship with
the village and villagers when a boy, it may be safely set
down that he never approached it after he got into the whirl
of religious controversy, and his brother Sir William being
proprietor during nearly both of their lifetimes, he had all
the less cause to approach it.
Sir Robert left a written testimony behind him, and among
other items in it was a clause to this effect: —" I die
a true Protestant, and, to my knowledge, a reformed Presbyterian.
With the death of Sir Robert ended the direct male line of
that ancient family, but the family and the name were not
yet extinct. We find a Dame Rachel Nicolson (Lady Preston)
taking a great interest in the parish. She died in 1716. Another
titled lady, Anna Hamilton, also took an interest in the parish.
She married Gilbert Burnet, and died in 1718. And yet another
is supposed to have married Sir James Oswald, Lord Provost
of Edinburgh. These three are supposed to have been sisters
of the last Sir William and Sir Robert Hamilton of Preston:
and it must have been through the youngest of these, the wife
of Sir James Oswald, that his son, Dr Oswald, entitled nephew
to Sir Robert Hamilton,