George earl of Winton, not having pleaded guilty with the other lords, was brought to his trial on the 18th of March, when the principal matter urged in his favour was, that he had surrendered at Preston in consequence of a promise from general Wills to grant him his life: in answer to which it was sworn, that no promise of mercy was made, but that the rebels surrendered at discretion.

The Earl of Winton having left his house, with fourteen or fifteen of his servants, well mounted and armed; —- his joining the earl Carnwarth and lord Kenmure; his proceeding with the rebels through the various stages of their march, and his surrendering with the rest, were circumstances fully proved: notwithstanding which his council moved in arrest of judgment: but the plea on which this motion was founded being thought insufficient, his peers unanimously found him guilty; and then the lord high steward pronounced sentence on him, after having addressed him in the following forcible terms:

 "George Earl of Winton, I have acquainted you, that your peers have found you guilty; that is, in the terms of the law, convicted you of the high treason whereof you stand impeached; after your lordship has moved in arrest of judgment, and their lordships have disallowed that motion, their next step is to proceed to judgment.

 "The melancholy part I am to bear, in pronouncing that judgment upon you, since it is his majesty's pleasure to appoint me to that office, I dutifully submit to it; far, very far, from taking any satisfaction in it.

 "Till conviction, your lordship has been spoke to without the least prejudice, or supposition of your guilt; but now it must be taken for granted, that your lordship is guilty of the high treason whereof you stand impeached.

 "My lord, this your crime is the greatest known to the law of this kingdom, or of any other country whatsoever, and it is of the blackest and most odious species of that crime; a conspiracy and attempt, manifested by an open rebellion, to depose and murder that sacred person, who sustains, and is the majesty of the whole; and from whom, as from a fountain of warmth and glory, are dispersed all the honours, all the dignity of the state; indeed the lasting and operative life and vigour of the laws, which plainly subsist by a due administration of the executive power.

 "So that attempting this precious life, is really striking at the most noble part, the seat of life, and spring of all motion in this government; and may therefore properly be called a design to murder not only the king, but also the body politick of this kingdom.

 "And this is most evidently true in your lordship's case, considering that success in your treason must infallibly have established Popery, and that never fails to bring with it a civil as well as ecclesiastick tyranny: which is quite another sort of constitution than that of this kingdom, and cannot take place till the present is annihilated.

 "This your crime (so I must call it) is the more aggravated, in that where it proceeds so far as to take arms openly, and to make an offensive war against lawful authority, 'tis generally (as in your case) complicated with the horrid and crying sin of murdering many, who are not only innocent, but meritorious: and if pity be due (as I admit it is in some degree) to such as suffer for their own crimes; it must be admitted a much greater share of compassion is owing to them, who have lost their lives merely by the crimes of other men.

 "As many as have so done in the late rebellion, so many murders have they to answer for, who promoted it; and your lordship in examining your conscience, will be under a great delusion, if you look on those who fell at Preston, Dumblain, or elsewhere, on the side of the laws, and defence of settled order and government, as slain in lawful war, even judging of this matter by the law of nations.

 "Alas! my lord, your crime of high treason is yet made redder, by shedding a great deal of the best blood in the kingdom; I include in this expression the brave common soldiers, as well as those gallant and heroic officers, who continued faithful to death, in defence of the laws: for sure but little blood can be better than that, which is shed while it is warm, in the cause of the true religion, and the liberties of its native country.

 "I believe it, notwithstanding the unfair arts and industry used, to stir up a pernicious excess of commiseration toward such as have fallen by the sword of justice (few, if compared with the numbers of good subjects, murdered from doors and windows at Preston only) the life of one honest loyal subject is more precious in the eye of God, and all considering men, than the lives of many rebels and parricides.

 "This puts me in mind to observe to your lordship, that there is another malignity in your lordship's crime (open rebellion) which consists in this, that it is always sure of doing hurt to a government, in one respect, though it be defeated; (I will not say, it does so on the whole matter).

 "For if the offence is too notorious to be let pass unobserved, by any connivance; then is government reduced to this dilemma: if it be not punished, the state is endangered by suffering examples to appear, that it may be attacked with impunity; if it be punished, they who are publickly or privately favourers of the treason (and perhaps some out of mere folly) raise undeserved clamours of cruelty against those in power; or the lowest their malice flies, is to make unseasonable, unlimited, and injudicious encomiums, upon mercy and forgiveness (things rightly used, certainly of the greatest excellence).

 "And this proceeding, it must be admitted, does harm, with silly and undistinguishing people. So that the rebels have the satisfaction of thinking they hurt the government a little even by their fall.

 "The only, but true consolation, every wise government has, in such a case (after it has tempered justice with mercy, in such proportion as sound discretion directs, having always a care of the public safety above all things) is this; that such like seeds of unreasonable discontents, take root on very shallow soil only; and that therefore after they have made a weak shoot, they soon wither and come to nothing.

 "It is well your lordship has given an opportunity of doing the government right, on the subject of your surrender at Preston.

 "How confidently had it been given out by the faction, that the surrender was made on assurances, at least hopes, insinuated of pardon. Whereas the truth appears to be, that fear was the only motive to it: the evil day was deferred; and the rebels rightly depended, fewer would die at last by the measures they elected, than if they had stood an assault. They were awed by the experienced courage, discipline, and steadiness of the king's troops, and by the superior genius and spirit of his majesty's commanders, over those of the rebels: so that in truth, they were never flattered with any other terms, than to surrender as rebels and traitors; their lives only to be spared till his majesty's pleasure should be known.

 "It was indeed a debt due to those brave commanders and soldiers (to whom their king and country owe more than can be well expressed) that their victory should be vindicated to the present and future ages, from untrue detraction, and kept from being sullied by the tongues of rebels and their accomplices, when their arms could no longer hinder it.

 "'Tis hard to leave this subject without shortly observing, that this engine which sets the world on fire, a lying tongue, has been of prodigious use to the party of the rebels, not only since, and during the rebellion, but before, while it was forming, and the rebels preparing for it.

 "False facts, false hopes, and false characters, have been the greater half of the scheme they set out with, and yet seem to depend upon.

 "It has been rightly observed, your lordship's answer does not so much as insist, with any clearness, on that which only could excuse your being taken in open rebellion; that is, you was forced into it, remained so under a force, and would have escaped from it, but could not.

 "If you had so insisted, it has been clearly proved that that had not been true; for your lordship was active and forward in many instances, and so considerable in military capacity among your fellow-soldiers, as to command a squadron. These, and other particulars, have been observed by the managers of the house of commons, and therefore I shall not pursue them further, but conclude this introduction to the sentence, by exhorting your lordship with perfect charity, and much earnestness, to consider that now the time is come, when the veil of partiality should be taken from your eyes (it must be so when you come to die) and that your lordship should henceforward think with clearness and indifference (if possible) which must produce in you a hearty detestation of the high crime you have committed; and, being a Protestant, be very likely to make you a sincere penitent, for your having engaged in a design that must have destroyed the holy religion you profess, had it taken effect.

 "Nothing now remains, but that I pronounce upon you that sentence which the law ordains, and which sufficiently shews, what thoughts our ancestors had of the crime of which your lordship is now convicted, viz. "That you George Earl of Winton, &c."'

Soon after the passing this sentence the earls of Winton and Nithisdale found means to escape out of the Tower; and Messrs Foster and M'Intosh escaped from Newgate: but it was supposed that motives of mercy and tenderness in the prince of Wales, afterwards George the second, favoured the escape of all these gentlemen.

Arms of the Seton Earls of Winton © The Seton Family 2005

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