Donald Cargill (1619 – 27 July 1681) was a Scottish Covenanter who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 to establish and defend Presbyterianism.
He was born at Rattray, Blairgowrie and educated at Aberdeen and St Andrews Universities. In 1655 he was appointed Minister to the Parish of Barony in Glasgow. On 29 May 1662, on a day of thanksgiving for the Restoration of Charles II, he startled his congregation by beginning his sermon as follows: “We are not come here to keep this day upon the account for which others keep it. We thought once to have blessed the day wherein the king came home again, but now we think we shall have reason to curse it; and if any of you come here in order to the solemnising of this day, we desire you to remove.” As a result of his protest, he was dismissed. He returned later and tried to hold a communion but the service was interrupted and he was arrested briefly. He was wounded at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge on 22 June 1679 between Royalists and Covenanters, and fled to the Netherlands.
Returning to Scotland in 1680, Cargill drafted a declaration of principles, contained in the document known as The Queensferry Paper which fell into government hands on 4 June when he narrowly escaped arrest at an inn in the town of Queensferry. It called for signatories to "overthrow the kingdom of darkness" and pledge that "We shall to our power relieve the church and subjects of this kingdom of that opposition that hath been exercised upon their consciences, civil rights and liberties, that men may serve him holily, without fear, and possess their civil rights in quietness, without disturbance." It accused the rulers of having "degenerated from the virtue and good government of their predecessors into tyranny; governed contrary to all right laws, exercised such tyranny and arbitrary government, oppressed men in their consciences and civil rights...", and affirmed in its final article that, "We bind and oblige ourselves to defend ourselves, and one another, in our worshipping of God, and in our natural, civil and divine rights and liberties, till we shall overcome, or send them down under debate to posterity, that they may begin where we end."
On 22 June 1680 Cargill's associate Richard Cameron issued the Sanquhar Declaration, calling for war against King Charles II and the exclusion of his brother, afterwards James VII, from the succession. After Cameron's death in July at the hand of dragoons, Cargill continued to preach in the Torwood near Stirling and in September pronounced the sentence of excommunication against the key government figures who were persecuting the Covenanters: Charles II, James, Duke of York and James, Duke of Monmouth, Privy Councillors, John, Duke of Lauderdale and John, Duke of Rothes, the King's Advocate, Sir George McKenzie, and General Tam Dalziel of the Binns. The following extract gives a flavour of the pronouncement,
- “I, being a minister of Jesus Christ, and having authority and power from Him, do, in His name and by His spirit (…) excommunicate and cast out of the true Church, and deliver up to Satan, James, Duke of Monmouth, for coming into Scotland at his father’s unjust command and leading armies against the Lord’s people, who were constrained to rise, being killed in and for the worshipping of the true God, and for refusing, that morning, a cessation of arms at Bothwell Bridge, for hearing and redressing their injuries, wrongs and oppressions."
Eventually Cargill was arrested, sentenced to death and hanged in Edinburgh on 27 July 1681. He is reported to have said to the crowd, “The Lord knows I go on this ladder with less fear and perturbation of mind, than ever I entered the pulpit to preach.”.
There is a monument to him at his birthplace in Rattray, Perthshire; and his name also appears on the Covenanters' Memorial near Maybole, South Ayrshire.
- J Barr, The Scottish Covenanters, Glasgow 1946, p.77
- M Grant, The Lion of the Covenant, p.229-30
- J Barr, The Scottish Covenanters, Glasgow 1946, p.52
- J Barr, The Scottish Covenanters, Glasgow 1946, p.76
- J Howie, The Scots Worthies, Edinburgh and London 1870, p.452
- Grant, Maurice (1988). No King but Christ: The Story of Donald Cargill. Darlington: Evangelical Press. ISBN 0-85234-255-1. This biography posits a later date for Cargill's birth, as late perhaps as 1627.
- J. Howie, The Scots Worthies, Edinburgh and London, 1870
- J Barr, The Scottish Covenanters, Glasgow 1946
- M. Grant, The Lion of the Covenant, Evangelical Press, Darlington 1997, ISBN 0-85234-395-7 A modern biography of Richard Cameron.
- R. C. Paterson, A Land Afflicted, Scotland And The Covenanter Wars, 1638-1690, John Donald, Edinburgh 1998, ISBN 9-780859-764865