Remonstrants, Resolutioners & Protesters

Although Charles II was accepted as King of Scots after signing the Treaty of Breda in May 1650, few in Scotland believed him to be sincere in his devotion to the Covenant. The ruling Committee of Estates was dominated by the fundamentalist Kirk Party which struggled to keep Charles under its control by banishing his closest supporters and by purging the army and government of all but strict Covenanters. However, Cromwell's victory over the Covenanter army at the battle of Dunbar in September 1650 was regarded by many as an indication of divine disapproval of the Scots' acceptance of an ungodly King.

The Western Association

Opposition to the King and his "malignant" supporters was strongest in the covenanting counties of the south-west — Lanark, Ayr, Renfrew, Wigtown and Kirkcudbright — from where the Whiggamore Raid of 1648 had driven the pro-Royalist Engagers from power in Scotland. The Covenanters subsequently formed the Western Association, modelled upon the parliamentary regional associations of the English Civil War, to safeguard Covenanter interests and to co-ordinate military action in western Scotland. The Western Association remained inactive until September 1650 when, in the aftermath of Dunbar, the fundamentalist officers Colonel Ker and Colonel Strachan refused to serve under David Leslie. The Committee of Estates ordered them to take their regiments to the Western Association and to raise new levies to resist Cromwell's army of invasion.

Free from all associations with the malignant King, the Western Association regarded itself as the true guardian of the Covenant. The Association was supported by Archibald Johnston of Wariston and fundamentalist ministers led by James Guthrie and Patrick Gillespie. On 2 October, the Association issued a Remonstrance addressed to the Committee of Estates in which the defeat at Dunbar was blamed upon those who had negotiated the Treaty of Breda without first obtaining evidence that Charles had truly repented. A second Remonstrance was issued from Dumfries on 17 October in which the Remonstrants disassociated themselves from the King's war with the English until he had proven himself worthy of their support. Colonel Strachan went so far as to advocate an alliance with Cromwell's army against the King, but this was rejected by the Association and Strachan was dismissed from his command.

The Committee of Estates and the Commission of the Kirk debated the Remonstrance in November 1650. The Marquis of Argyll, Lord Balcarres and the Earl of Lothian denounced it, while Wariston argued passionately in its defence. Despite general sympathy and a tacit recognition that it contained much truth, the Remonstrance was finally rejected on the grounds that it was likely to cause further divisions among the Covenanters. When the Scottish Parliament met in late November, Colonel Montgomery was commissioned to take over from Colonel Ker as commander of the Western Association army. However, before Montgomery could take up his command, Cromwell and Lambert marched west against Ker with eight regiments of cavalry and defeated the Western army at Hamilton on 1 December 1650.

Resolutioners & Protesters

With the defeat of the Western Association army, Scottish Royalists renewed their demands that the qualifications for service in the army should be relaxed. On 14 December 1650, the Commission of the Kirk decreed that it was Parliament's duty to employ all lawful means to defend Scotland against the English invaders, which opened the way for the re-admission of Royalists and Engagers into the army once they had undergone suitable penance. Pro-Royalists were known as "Resolutioners" because they supported the resolutions of 14 December. They were opposed by "Protesters", a group which was led by Remonstrants but included many who had not supported the original Remonstrance. The Protesters continued to object to the relaxation of the strictures against malignants but the Royalists rapidly gained influence in the military and civil administration of Scotland after the coronation of Charles II at Scone in January 1651, culminating in the repeal of the Act of Classes in June 1651 and the fall of the Kirk Party.

The events of 1650-1 caused a deep schism within the Kirk. The radical Remonstrants and Protesters believed that the compromises made to accommodate Charles II had irrevocably corrupted the Kirk. They broke away from the majority Resolutioners to hold conventicles, or prayer-meetings, outside the normal worship of the Kirk. The Protesters refused to accept the authority of General Assemblies from 1651 onwards because they were dominated by the corrupted Resolutioner majority. In July 1653, the Protesters and Resolutioners held rival General Assemblies in Edinburgh, but both were dissolved by order of Major-General Lilburne, the military governor of Scotland. These were the last meetings of the General Assembly for thirty-seven years.

During the Protectorate, Lord Broghill, the leader of the Council appointed to govern Scotland, appealed to moderate members of both factions to lay aside their differences in the interests of the common cause of reforming the Kirk. Although Broghill's diplomacy succeeded in reconciling some leaders of the pro-Royalist Resolutioners to the Protectorate government, Cromwell's toleration and encouragement of the Independent sects was bitterly opposed by Scottish Presbyterians and undermined his hopes of reuniting the fractured Kirk.


C.H. Firth, The Last Years of the Protectorate 1656-58 vol. ii (London 1909)

S.R. Gardiner, History of the Commonwealth and Protectorate vol i (London 1903)

Ronald Hutton, The British Republic 1649-60 (Basingstoke 2000)

David Stevenson, Revolution & Counter-Revolution in Scotland 1644-51 (Newton Abbott 1977)