and early in 1596 (Calderwood, vi. 393) he appointed a committee, the members of which, being eight in number, were known as the Octavians, to improve his revenue. The Octavians pursued their work for about a year and a half, but they failed to increase the revenue of the crown to any appreciable extent. Their appointment irritated the clergy, as ‘some of the number were suspected of papistry’ (ib. vi. 394). In August 1596 a convention of estates was held at Falkland, at which, in the teeth of the protests of Andrew Melville, the most pertinacious of the presbyterian ministers, it was resolved that the exiled lords should be called home, ‘the king and the kirk being satisfied’ (ib. vi. 438). Andrew Melville came over, unbidden, to Falkland to testify in the name of ‘the king, Christ Jesus, and his kirk’ against these proceedings, and in September, an assembly being held at Cupar Fife, a deputation of four ministers was sent to Falkland to remonstrate with the king. James told them that their assembly was ‘without warrant and seditious.’ On this Andrew Melville broke in, telling James that he was ‘but God's silly [i.e. weak] vassal,’ and in outspoken language upheld the right of the clergy to tell him the truth about his own conduct (James Melville, Diary, pp. 368–70).
The position of the kirk became more difficult to defend when, on 19 Oct., the Countess of Huntly offered, in the presbytery of Moray, on behalf of her husband, that he would be ready to make his submission, Huntly himself having by that time returned to Scotland, and being in hiding in his own district [see Gordon, George, sixth Earl and first Marquis of Huntly].
But the ministers' sermons increased in bitterness, and on 16 Dec. the four ministers who served Edinburgh were ordered to leave the town (Calderwood, v. 540), and seventy-four of the Edinburgh burgesses were to share the same fate. Consequently, there was on 17 Dec. a tumult in Edinburgh, which was put down without difficulty. On the 18th James went off to Linlithgow, leaving behind him a proclamation announcing that in consequence of the tumult he had removed the courts of justice from Edinburgh, which was no longer a fit place for their peaceful labours. The announcement cooled the ardour of the townsmen in defence of the clergy. During the king's absence the ministers, especially Robert Bruce, had been violent in their invectives; after which Bruce and the more outspoken of his colleagues, hearing that the magistrates had orders to commit them to prison to await their trial, took refuge in England. On 1 Jan. 1597 James returned to Edinburgh completely master of the situation (ib. v. 514–21; Spotiswood, iii. 32–5). In the course of the year he obtained the restoration of Huntly and the northern earls, on condition of their complete submission to the kirk, and their hypocritical acceptance of its religion and discipline.
With a view to reconciling the pretensions of the church and state, James astutely summoned an assembly to meet at Perth on 29 Feb. 1597. The Scottish clergy were poor, and as travelling was expensive, assemblies were always most fully attended by those ministers who lived in the neighbourhood of the place of meeting. The northern clergy would therefore be in a majority at Perth, and they would be unwilling to displease the powerful Roman catholic northern earls, or were themselves less inclined to high presbyterian views than were the ministers of Fife and the Lothians.
James having obtained a decision in his favour on the question whether the assembly, having been convened by royal authority, was lawfully convened, proposed thirteen queries, to which he obtained satisfactory replies. The answers limited the claim of the clergy to denounce persons by name from the pulpit, and forbade them to find fault with the king's proceedings unless they had first sought a remedy in vain. Moreover, the king was to have the right of proposing to future assemblies any changes he thought desirable in the external government of the church. Speaking broadly, the result of this assembly was to establish constitutional relations between the king and the clergy, thereby cutting at the root of the theory of ‘two kingdoms,’ which Melville had propounded. Of course Melville and his allies denounced the meeting at Perth as no true and free assembly of the kirk (Calderwood, v. 606–21; Melville, Diary, pp. 403–14; Book of the Universal Kirk, p. 889).
James, having thus felt his way, gathered another assembly at Dundee in May, and accepted a proposal for the appointment of certain ministers as commissioners of the church, authorised to confer from time to time with the king on church affairs. During the remainder of the year everything seemed settling down into peace: the Edinburgh clergy were allowed to reoccupy their pulpits; the northern earls were restored; nothing was heard of foreign intrigue or domestic disorder.
The next step was to bring the church into constitutional relations with parliament. Doubtless by agreement between James and the new commissioners of the church, a petition was presented to the parliament which met on 13 Dec. 1597, asking that the church