A Gentleman, who was convicted of killing the Earl of Eglinton, and to avoid an Ignominious Death hanged himself, 28th of February, 1770
THE unhappy subject of this narrative was protected by an uncle, who gave him a learned education; but this generous friend died when the youth was about eighteen years of age, leaving him sixty pounds, and earnestly recommending him to the care of his other relations. The young man was a finished scholar, yet seemed averse to making the choice of any of the learned professions. His attachment appeared to be to the military life, in which line many of his ancestors had most gloriously distinguished themselves.
Mr Campbell entered as a cadet in the royal regiment of Scots Greys, then commanded by his relation, General Campbell, and served during two campaigns at his own expense, in the fond hope of military preferment.
After the battle of Dettingen, at which he assisted, he had an opportunity of being appointed quartermaster if he could have raised one hundred pounds, but this place was bestowed on another person while Campbell was making fruitless application for the money.
Thus disappointed of what he thought a reasonable expectation, he quitted the army and went into Scotland, where he arrived at the juncture when the rebels had quitted Edinburgh, in 1745, Lord Loudoun having then the command of loyal Highlanders, who exerted so much bravery in the suppression of the Rebellion; and Mr Campbell, having the honour to be related to his lordship, went and fought under him with a bravery that did equal credit to his loyalty and courage.
Not long after the decisive battle of Culloden, Lord Loudoun procured his kinsman to be appointed an officer of the excise; and prevailed on the commissioners to station him in the shire of Ayr, that he might have the happiness of residing near his friends and relations.
In the discharge of his new duty Mr Campbell behaved with strict integrity to the Crown, yet with so much civility as to conciliate the affections of all those with whom he had any transactions. He married when he was somewhat advanced in life; and so unexceptionable was his whole conduct that all the nobility and gentry in the neighbourhood (the Earl of Eglinton excepted) gave him permission to kill game on their estates. However, he was very moderate in the use of this indulgence, seldom shooting but with a view to gratify a friend with a present; hardly ever for his own emolument.
Mr Campbell had a singular attachment to fishing; and, a river in Lord Eglinton's estate affording the finest fish in that country, he would willingly have angled there, but his lordship being as strict with regard to his fish as his game, Campbell, unwilling to offend him, gave away his fishing-tackle, which was excellent in its kind. He was likewise in possession of a fine pointer, which he sold; but would not part with his gun, which produced him the greatest pleasure of his life.
Campbell, being in search of smugglers, and having his gun with him, was crossing part of Lord Eglinton's estate when a hare started up, and he shot her. His lordship hearing the report of the gun, and being informed that Campbell had fired it, sent a servant to command him to come to the seat. Campbell obeyed the disagreeable summons, but was treated very cavalierly by his lordship, who even descended to call him by names of contempt. The other apologised for his conduct, which he said arose from the sudden starting of the hare, and declared that he had no design of giving offence. This might have been a sufficient apology to any other man than Lord Eglinton.
A man named Bartleymore was among the servants of Lord Eglinton, and was a favourite of his lordship, and this man dealt largely in contraband goods. Mr Campbell, passing along the seashore, met Bartleymore with a cart containing eighty gallons of rum, which he seized as contraband; and the rum was condemned, but the cart was restored, being the property of Lord Eglinton.
In this affair it will appear evident that Mr Campbell did not exceed his duty; but Bartleymore was so incensed against him that he contrived many tales to his disadvantage, and at length engaged his lordship's passions so far that he conceived a more unfavourable opinion of Campbell than he had hitherto done.
About ten in the morning of the 24th of October, 1769, Campbell took his gun and went out with another officer with a view to detecting smugglers. Mr Campbell took with him a licence for shooting, which had been given him by Dr Hunter, though he had no particular design of killing any game, but intended to shoot a woodcock if he should see one.
They crossed a small part of Lord Eglinton's estate, in order to reach the seashore, where they intended to walk. When they arrived at this spot it was near noon, and Lord Eglinton came up in his coach, attended by Mr Wilson, a carpenter, and followed by four servants on horseback. On approaching the coast his lordship met Bartleymore who told him there were some poachers at a distance, and that Campbell was among them. Lord Eglinton quitted his coach and, mounting a led horse, rode to the spot, where he saw Campbell and the other officer, whose name was Brown. His lordship said: "Mr Campbell, I did not expect to have found you so soon again on my grounds, after your promise when you shot the hare." He then demanded Campbell's gun, which the latter declared he would not part with.
Lord Eglinton now rode towards him, while Campbell retreated, with his gun presented, desiring him to keep at a distance. Still, however, his lordship advanced, smiling, and said: "Are you going to shoot me?" Campbell replied: "I will, if you do not keep off." Hereupon Lord Eglinton called to his servants to bring him a gun, which one of them took from the coach, and delivered to another to carry to their master.
In the interim Lord Eglinton, leading his horse, approached Mr Campbell and demanded his gun, but the latter would not deliver it. The peer then quitted his horse's bridle and continued advancing, while Campbell still retired, though in an irregular direction, and pointed his gun towards his pursuer.
At length Lord Eglinton came so near him that Campbell said: "I beg your pardon, my lord, but I will not deliver my gun to any man living; therefore keep off, or I will certainly shoot you." At this instant Bartleymore, advancing, begged Campbell to deliver his gun to Lord Eglinton; but the latter answered he would not, for he "had a right to carry a gun."
His lordship did not dispute his general right, but said that he could not have any to carry it on his estate without his permission. Campbell again begged pardon, and still continued retreating, but with his gun in his hand, and preparing to fire in his own defence. While he was thus walking backwards his heel struck against a stone and he fell, when he was about the distance of three yards from the pursuer. Lord Eglinton observed him fall on his back, and stepped forward, as if he would have passed by Campbell's feet. The latter, observing this, reared himself on his elbow, and lodged the contents of his piece in the left side of his lordship's body.
A contest now ensued, during which Bartleymore repeatedly struck Campbell. Being observed by Lord Eglinton, he called out: "Do not use him ill." Campbell, being secured, was conducted to the wounded man, then lying on the ground, who said: "Mr Campbell, I would not have shot you." But Campbell made no answer. His hands were tied behind him, and he was conducted to the town of Saltcoats, the place of his former station as an exciseman.
Lord Eglinton dying, after languishing ten hours, Mr Campbell was, on the following day, committed to the prison of Ayr, and the next month removed to Edinburgh, in preparation for his trial before the High Court of Justiciary. The trial commenced on the 27th of February, 1770, and the jury having found Mr Campbell guilty he was sentenced to die.
On his return to prison he was visited by several of his friends, among whom he behaved with apparently decent cheerfulness; and, retiring to his apartment, he begged the favour of a visit from them on the following day. But in the morning he was found dead, hanging to the end of a form which he had set upright, with a silk handkerchief round his neck.
The following lines were found upon the floor, close to the body:--
"Farewell, vain world, I've had enough of thee,
And now am careless what thou say'st of me,
Thy smiles I court not, nor thy frowns I fear,
My cares are past, my heart lies easy here,
What faults they find in me take care to shun,
And look at home, enough is to be done."