Macky, John (DNB00)

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MACKY, JOHN (d. 1726), government agent or spy, author of ‘Memoirs of Secret Services,’ was a Scotsman of good education, but of his parentage or birth nothing is known. According to his own account he ‘came early into the measures of the revolution,’ and being, on the return of King James from Ireland to France, sent to Paris to find out the further purposes of the Jacobites, he discovered that the French government intended to send an expedition against England in 1692. He arrived in London with the information before James reached his army encamped at La Hogue, and thus gave the government ample time for preparations against it. On the return of King William to England in October 1693, he was appointed inspector of the coast from Harwich to Dover in order to prevent treasonable correspondence between the two countries by passengers or letters. He discovered the proposed descent on England in 1696 in connection with the assassination plot of Sir George Barclay [q. v.]; and after its disclosure published ‘A View of the Court of St. Germains from the year 1690 to 1695, with an Account of the Entertainment Protestants meet with there, directed to the malcontent Protestants of England,’ 1696. Of this pamphlet he states that no fewer than thirty thousand copies were sold. After the peace of Ryswick, 20 Sept. 1697, he had the direction of the packet-boats from Dover to France and Flanders, and he states that during the negotiations connected with the Partition treaty in 1698 he had the charge of transmitting all the private expresses that passed between King William and Lord Portland.

The packet-boat service was discontinued after the death of King William in 1702, and Macky went to look after an estate possessed by him and others in the island of Zante, in the dominion of Venice. After the battle of Ramillies in May 1706 he had the direction of the packet-boats to Ostend, with instructions to watch narrowly all naval preparations at Ostend and other sea-coast towns; and in 1708 he discovered the preparations for an armament at Dunkirk. Subsequently he came under the suspicion of the government and was thrown into prison, where he remained till the accession of George I. On obtaining his liberty he endeavoured at his own expense to establish a service of packetboats to Dublin, but the undertaking involved him in heavy expenses, and was soon dropped. Ultimately he went abroad, and he died at Rotterdam in 1726.

He is the author of a somewhat important contribution to contemporary history: 'Memoirs of the Secret Services of John Macky, Esq., during the Reign of King William, Queen Anne, and King George I. Including also the true Secret History of the Rise, Promotions, &c., of the English and Scots Nobility; Officers, Civil, Military, Naval, and other Persons of distinction from the Revolution. In their respective Characters at large: drawn up by Mr. Macky pursuant to the direction of Her Royal Highness the Princess Sophia. Published from his original Manuscript, as attested by his son. Spring Macky, Esq.,' London, 1733. An edition in French, translated by 'A. R.,' was published at the Hague in the same year. The chief value of the 'Memoirs' consists in its descriptions of the leading personages of the period, which evidence both keen powers of observation and great impartiality of judgment. Swift has appended notes, generally of an acrid character, to many of the descriptions. Macky was also the author of 'Journey through England,' 1714; 2nd edition, 1722, with additional volume; 3rd edition, 1723, with a third volume; reprinted, with large additions, 1724 and 1732; 'Journey through Scotland,' 1723; and 'Journey through the Austrian Netherlands,' 1725.

[Pref. to Secret Memoirs; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. ii. 430, 4th ser. iv. 135.]

T. F. H.