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National Covenant of Scotland

Statement drawn up by Sir Archibald Johnston of Warriston and Alexander Henderson, minister of Leuchars, and revised by leading Presbyterians, which stated the subscribers' adherence to the Presbyterian Church in Scotland and their abomination of all corruptions of it. Although the Covenant was drawn up in opposition to Charles I's attempts to introduce an Episcopalian form of church government in Scotland, the signatories ended by stating their allegiance to "the defence of our Dreade Soveraigne, the Kings Majesty, his Person and Authority, in the defence and preservation of the foresaid true Religion, Liberties and Lawes of the Kingdome" The National Covenant was first signed in Greyfriars Churchyard, Edinburgh, by the nobility and gentry on 28 February 1638 and on subsequent days by the clergy and the people of the city. Later, copies were despatched for signature to other parts of Scotland. Adherents and signatories came to be known as covenanters.

Covenanters were the supporters of the National Covenant, which was signed on 28th February 1638 in Edinburgh. It was drawn up to protect the institution of the Church in Scotland from the English liturgy and from the ultimate control of the Crown. Although the Covenant was defensive in concept its supporters became more aggressive in their demands for free assemblies and independence. The events of the Civil War drew the Covenanters into an uneasy alliance with the English Parliamentarians through the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643. For the Scots this entailed a commitment to preserve the reformed Church, to extirpate Catholicism and to bring the two countries together in religious unity. The Covenanting cause was split by the war, notably because of the English Parliament's lack of enthusiasm for Scottish involvement; by the campaigns of James Graham, Marquis of Montrose in 1644-5; by the Engagement of 1647, in which a section of the nobility attempted a rapprochement with Charles I; and finally by the support for his son Charles II. Adherence to the Covenant implied a strict belief in Presbyterianism and defaulters were punished severely. Charles II's attempts to reintroduce an Episcopalian form of church government in Scotland saw the Covenanting movement enter its most bitter period, with the savage harassment of the field conventicles, services held in the open air, and the execution of Covenanting leaders. The defeat of the conventiclers at the Battle of Bothwell Brig by John Graham of Claverhouse in 1679 virtually ended their opposition, although a splinter group, the
Cameronians, continued to express a more militant form of Covenanting. The Revolution Settlement of 1690 established the Presbyterian Church, which was effectively controlled by the moderates, and the 18th century saw a number of secessions from the Church by ministers who held to the stricter, more puritanical views of the Covenanters. Despite their internal divisions and their narrow beliefs, the Covenanters remain a powerful cause in Scotland's history through their espousal of individual liberty, their steadfastness in the face of massacre and execution, and their own sense of self-discipline. The novel Old Mortality by Sir WALTER Scott tells the story of the Covenanters from Graham's point of view, while maintaining a fairly balanced attitude towards the Covenanters themselves.

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