v 6.30.00
28 Jan 2022
updated 28 Jan 2022

After various [setbacks], I finally opted for the xerox, and so, herewith, the Erskine Saga, as per C Silvester Horne, A Popular History of the Free Churches, James Clarke & Co, 13-14 Fleet Street, 1903

I hasten to add that the whole gist is to do with the Administration argument; it was in no way doctrinal. The Establishment reserved the right of appointing the ministers to the jobs; the Erskines were the first (in Scotland, at any rate) to claim that each parish flock had the right to choose, appoint & pay, their own minister. I.e., who controlled the goodies. As regards religious detail, there was not fundamentally all that much between C of E, C of [Scotland], & the Free Churches. A "Free" Church doctrinal and administrative body, indicated only that it was "Free" of the Master church.

The said master church was the Episcopalian ditto, endeavoured to be set up by Charles I (the 'eye') & Archbishop Laud, his "fascist running dog", (in the argot), his "lickspittle hyena", ect, ect [sic1]. Laud thought out the complete administrative & theological Domesday Book for the Church of Scotland, to be set up by the force of Royal Authority, of Charles I's army & dragoons; which caused the Scots to rebel as a body & in 1638 to invade England as far as Newcastle, where they sat down & sent messengers to London saying:- "Eject us if you can". Owing to forty years inflation, Charles' treasury was skint, so to eject the Scots he had to call a Parlt. who were landowners & local Justices of the Peace; every one [of them] certain that he could detect reckless govt spending when he saw it. (Too many Van Dycks & [Rubens] ect). As the JP's were also the local govt system as well, (the only tax collecting machinery then existing), they had an excellent means (a) of controlling the extra special taxes that they agreed to vote to the King and (b) to control inch by inch the tax collecting machine that got the money from the peasants (all in solid coin, no cheques or notes) all the way in horse carts to the Royal Exchequer in London.

1: See the Molesworth books passim.

So, as they were the first Parlt for 12 years, years of financial ducks & drakes of fairly energetic extravagance at Court, obviously the first thing these country gentry wanted was a clear sorting out, & a few heads in the basket. No money till then & then only on condition. Meanwhile the Scots Army was eating the North of England down to the bare gravel. The King agreed that on second thoughts he could spare Archbishop Laud and Sir Thomas Strafford (the bane of Ulster; how we could use him now!). Their heads flew yards before bouncing, but not far enough to pacify the H of C. The outcome was the Civil War and the end of Charles the Eye in 1649. During the Common Wealth [sic] (1650-1659] Scotland hastily set up a Calvinistic Kirk of Scotland to which (father) Henry Erskine belonged, serving at that place in Northumberland (see text). In 1660 Charles II was restored, not so much that he was sorely needed, but that it was the only way to keep out a revolting succession of nauseating little men such as Oliver Cromwell's pimply weedy son (much given to weakening bad habits) and an even more sinister crew of renegades in the shadowy background.

The first general election after 1660 produced a bumper majority of MPs of the ex-Royalist, ex-landowner type, all beggared in the Royal cause, and all red-hot (1) to put themselves on top again and (2) to put the long-eared 'uns (the Nonconformists) well & truly down again. Like most political chemical experiments, the process proved irreversible by due process of law but in their efforts they passed about seven punitive Acts, which need not occupy space here, beyond that they were of the "castrate all shop stewards, IRA and immigrants" ect ect. But, BUT, they did include in the seven an Act for harrying Nonconformists, called the Test Act (wch survived on the Statute Book until 1828, when Wellington, then Prime Minister, agreed to its abolition along with Catholic Disability & a whole lot more).

The Test Act was a real winkler-outer. Every member of society above the rank of railway porter equivalent, had to take Holy Communion in the Parish Church of his own parish, or not [be able to] get a job there, or lose it if he had already got one (and the parishes were tiny in population).

Poor old Henry [Erskine] got caught by his most prized possessions in that one & was outed. The long, long end of it was that in generations to come his descendants created far more long-eared 'uns than the Test Act ever aimed at suppressing, and in the process established Nonconformity in the land to an extent that has enormously affected the social structure ever since. In fact, the results of those few years were the mould in which English social history has been cast ever since. In short, to the thinking mind (mine, f'r'instance) they represent a monumental warning by the wayside to any hastening towards the legislature, with hard & fast, binding, legislative proposals for righting the wrongs of society. One does not need to know the dazzling details. If it is to be a forced diet, the "No", (see under Cavalier Parlt!).

Jock Ferguson [William's cousin] was gratified to find himself the centre of attention in some minor Scottish Burgh many many years ago, when it transpired that he was at great distance connected to Ebenezer, the Scottish Luther! My old Grandma in Hampstead used to trot out the tribal lore at length on the subject. So now you know a bit more about the jungle vines from which we all depend.