Изображения страниц

ing more particularly the leading position of Elizabeth, a minuteness scarcely consistent with the idea of careless or inaccurate arrangement. This independent, and most authentic, evidence affords an argument of primogeniture much stronger than that deduced for Gleneagles from the litigious activity of the husband of Agnes Menteith, in his proceedings against Dernely, and to which we find, upon a close inspection, that more than due weight has hitherto been given.

It has been already stated that this evidence was first detected by Mr Riddell, more than twenty years ago. In his recent publication, however, that learned gentleman, after taking full credit to himself for the discovery, suddenly produces a new piece of evidence in favour of Gleneagles, subsequently discovered, but at what period he does not say. But, with great submission, he has missed the point of his own discovery. Intending, as he so oddly terms it, " to render justice to the heir-general of Gleneagles," he produces what would not be received as evidence, of the particular point for that family, before any tribunal, while at the same time it affords unexceptionable evidence, for the family of Merchiston, of a fact very material to their case.

The discovery in question consists of two entries contained in an old and very confused volume of Acts of Council and Session. Mr Riddell has noticed these entries in a different order from that in which they occur in the book. I take the liberty, however, to follow the record.

There appears, classed under the date 29th July 1562, (more than a hundred years after the succession of the young ladies of Menteith) an act of transference, which runs thus:

“Transferris the contract and appunctment and decreit of the Lordis of Counsell interponit thairto for the tyme, berand and contenand as followis: At Edinburge 2d August 1485, &c. in presens of the Lordis of Counsale underwritten,” &c. “It is apunctit and finale endit betwix Jhone of Halden of Glennegas for himself, and James Halden his sone and appearand air, on that ane part, and Jhone Naper and Elezabeth his spouse on the uther part, anent the devisioun, depertesing, and deling of the landis of Ruske and Lanerk, lying in the steurtie of Menteth and sheriffdom of Perth, perteining to the saids perteis as portioners of the samyn, in manner and forme as efter followis, that is to say, the said Johne Halden consentis, grantis, and admittis, that the saidis Jhone Naper sall depert, devoid, and deile the saidis landis above-written this wise: In the first, that the said Jhone Halden and James his sone, as eldest portioneris, sall tak for the first chimmeis of Ruske, the place wytin the loche of Ruske, and for the place of the landis of Lanerk, the place and ” * * * * * *

Here this fragment abruptly terminates, why or wherefore, no man alive,—nay, not even the author of the Tracts,—can tell. Had thematter remained in this state, it might have been supposed that the abrupt conclusion was simply in consequence of part of the record having been lost, for it breaks off at the end of a page, and the paging of the volume is comparatively modern. But some pages further on in the same volume, there appears a subsequent entry, which Mr Riddell places foremost, as his leading proof. It is another act of transference between the same parties, and of the very same contract, but this time the form is a little different.

“Transferris, wyt consent of the pertiis procuratoris under-written, ane contract allegit maid in presens of the Lordis of Consale for the tyme,” &c. then follows the words of the previous entry, which, however, it brings to a conclusion thus, “That the said Jhone Naper suld depert, devis, and deill the foirsaidis landis in this wise, in the first, that the said umquhile Jhone Haldane, and James his sone as eldest portioneris suld tak for ther first chimmeis of Rusky the place wytin the loche of Rusky, and for the place of the landis of Lanerik the place and biggings of Lanerk, and the said umquhile Johne Naper and Elizabeth his spous to cheise uthirtwa chimmeise, quheir it plesit thame wytin the same landis, and to tak the Borland of Rusky for ther chimmeis gif thai pleise, and farther suld devoid the forsaidis landis in twa evinlie pertis as thai best ma be depertit and devidit, as the said contract allegit, insert and registrat in the bukis of umquhile our soverane ladeis grandschiris consale, to have and havand the strenthe of ane decreit of the Lordis therof for the tyme, of the dait the secund day of August, the yeir of God J" four hundred IXxxv. yeirs, at moir lenthe proportis. IN Jhone Haldane of Glennegas, successor to the saide umquhile Jhone Halden of Glennegas, and heretabill possessor of that ane half of the forsaidis landis, wyt the pertinentis active, and in Archibald Naper of Merchamstoune as air, at the leist successor to umquhile Johne Naper of Merchamstone, and portioner and heretabill possessor of the uther half therof, passive, and decermis and ordainis sicklike lettres to be direct at the instance of the said Jhone Halden, against the said Archibald Naper of Merchamston, for compelling of him to ful..fil the forsaid contract and decreet in all points, after the tenor of the saymn, as myt or suld heife bene direct at the instance of the said umquhile Jhone Halden, agains the said umquhile Jhone Napier of Merchamstone, for

compelling of him to fulfill the foirsaid contract and decreit, efter the forme and tenor therof, schewin and producit before the saidis Lordis. The said Jhone Halden of Glennegas compeirand be Maister Alexander Mauchane, his procurator, and the said Archibald Naper of Merchamstone, be Master Jhone Abircrumby, his procurator, and that lettres be direct to the effect forsaide in forme, as efFeirs."

It cannot be conceded to the author of the Tracts, that by the first entry quoted, " We are thus presented with part of the original contract in 1485." By the fragment in question, it is not proved that such a contract ever existed, or at least, that John Napier and his spouse had ever become parties to it; and the whole circumstances under which the fragment appears tend rather to the conclusion, that the existence of such a contract and decree in 1485 was never proved by better evidence than the allegation of the party in the year 1562. Mr Riddell himself informs us, that, " After due examination, nothing further has transpired, nor in any register or quarter whatever^ has more been detected of the original contract." The object of that process was simply and solely to transfer into the person of the laird of Gleneagles in 1562 whatever right to pursue for fulfilment of the alleged contract might have been in the person of the laird of Gleneagles in 1485. There is something peculiar, too, in the double entry. The first simply, "Transferris the contract and appunctment and decreit;" the second only transfers, with consent of parties, "ane contract allegit maid." But it does not appear that, even in 1562, the original contract and decreit were either produced and verified, or admitted.

Neither can it be conceded to the author of the Tracts that there is any thing in this inconsequential process of transference from which it can be inferred, that the procurator acting for Merchiston admitted, upon their part, " the fact involved in the words eldest portionaris, applied to the Haldanes." Mr Riddell seems inclined, by a cautious but somewhat distorted mode of expression, to rear some such admission as an ingredient in his case for Gleneagles. The fact of primogeniture involved in the words of the contract, he says, " in a manner may be acquiesced in by Napier." But every one acquainted with the nature of this process of transference (which merely connected Haldane with his ancestor in that matter) will at once perceive that no such inference can be drawn ; and Mr Riddell's not very intelligible qualification, "in a manner may be," really seems to imply that learned gentleman's own suspicion that no such acquiescence was involved.

It is remarkable that all the most plausible evidence in support of the primogeniture of Agnes Menteith, Haldane's lady, when viewed closely, leads to the opposite inference, namely, that she was younger than her sister Elizabeth. Haldane's long and pertinacious litigation with Dernely at first sight appears to argue that he stood forward as in the right of the leading coheiress of the earldom of Lennox. But the details, as we have shown, are irreconcilable with that theory, and substantiate nothing, unless it be this, that the parties contending were the second and the last of three interests, the first not being in the field. In like manner, this new piece of evidence will bear no inspection in support of the primogeniture of Agnes Menteith, and will even be found to afford a contrary inference.

So far as we obtain any view of this contract, it simply provides the ordinary disposal of the messuages in

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »