COVENANTERS, in Scottish history, the name given to the party which struggled for religious liberty from 1637 on to the Revolution. They were so called because they bound them selves in a series of covenants to maintain the Presbyterian doctrines. The first oath was signed in the winter of 1557,on the second corn ill!? of Knox to Scotland; another signed by King James, and called the King's Covenant, was signed in 1581. It was drawn up by John Craig to offset the growing predominance of Catholicism, which it denounced. It was again subscribed to in 1590 and 1596.
After the union of the crowns of Scotland and England (1603), as the Stuarts favored the Episcopal churches, whose hierarchical form seemed fitted to promote their despotic views, the dangers which threatened Presbyterianism brought its followers in Scotland to a closer union; and when, in 1637, the new liturgy, modeled after the English, was ordered to be introduced their churches, disturbances arose, which ended in the forming of a new Covenant the following year. This was called the. National Covenant. The subscription of it began in the Grayfriars' Church, Edinburgh, 28 Feb. 1638. Copies were circulated through out the country for general signature, many of which are still extant. The Covenant, with the confession of faith which it embodied, was rati fied by the General Assembly at Glasgow, 21 Nov. 1638, and by the Scottish Parliament in 1640. In 1642 the English Parliament applied to the Scots for aid in the Civil War in the reign of Charles I and the application was pressed more earnestly in the following year. The Covenanters, who were then masters of Scotland, demanded that the English Parlia ment should take the Covenant, and assimilate the doctrine and discipline of the churches of the twq nations, In consequence of this stipula tion, 25 Sept. 1643, both Houses of Parliament met at Saint Margaret's Westminster, along with the Assembly of Divines and the Scottish commissioners, to take the Covenant, which had been modified by the Assembly. After prayers and sermons, all present held up their hands in testimony of assent to it; and afterward, in their several Houses, subscribed it on a Parliament roll. The House of Com mons ordered it to be taken by all persons in their respective parishes next Lord's Day.
Both covenants were signed by Charles II on his landing in Scotland in 1650, and again at his coronation at Scone, 1 Jan. 1651. The covenan ters were now the supreme power in Scotland, but their supremacy was undermined by the victory at Dunbar in 1651, and vanished when Charles was restored in 1660.
In 1661 the Covenant was burned by the hangman, and in 1662 abjured by act of Parlia ment, in both England and Scotland. Op
pressive measures were inaugurated against the Covenanters who, outraged, finally in 1665 took up arms in defense of the Presbyterian form of church government. The Presbyterian ministers who refused to acknowledge the bishops were ejected from their parishes and drew around them crowds of their people on the hillsides, or any lonely spot, to attend their ministrations. These meetings, called °con venticles," were denounced as seditious, and to frequent them, or to hold communication with those frequenting them, was forbidden on pain of death. The unwarrantable severity with which the recusants were treated provoked them to take up arms in defense of their opinions. The first outbreaks took place in the hill country on the borders of Ayr and Lanark shires. Here at Drumclog, a farm near Loudon Hill, a conventicle was attacked by a body of dragoons under Graham of Claver house, but were successful in defeating their assailants (1679). The murder of Archbishop Sharp on Magus Moor, and this defeat, alarmed the government, who sent a large body of troops to put down the insurgents, who had increased in number rapidly. The two armies met at Bothwell Bridge, where the Covenanters were totally defeated (22 June 1679). In conse quence of the rebellious protests called the San quhar Declaration, put forth in 1680 by Cam eron, Cargill and others, as representing the more irreconcilable of the Covenanters (known as Cameronians), and a subsequent proclama tion in 1684, the government proceeded to more severe measures. An oath was now required of all who would free themselves of suspicion of complicity with the Covenanters; and the dragoons who were sent out to hunt down the rebels were empowered to kill anyone who refused to take the oath. During this akilling time," as it was called, the sufferings of the Covenanters were extreme; but, notwithstand ing the great numbers who were put to death, their fanatic spirit seemed only to grow stronger. Even after the accession of William some of the extreme Covenanters refused to ac knowledge him owing to his acceptance of episcopacy in England, and these formed the earliest dissenting sect in Scotland. The latest covenant was that drawn up in 1912 by the Scottish Presbyterians of Ulster who were op posed to the Irish Home Rule Bill of Mr. Asquith, on the ground that it might endanger Protestantism. Consult Gardiner, S. B., 'Con stitutional Documents of the Puritan Revolu tion' (London 1897); id., (History of England' (1883-84); Grub, G., (Ecclesiastical History of Scotland' (Edinburgh 1861); Macpherson, 'History of the Church of Scotland' (Paisley 1901).