There was another claim which seems to have brought matters to a crisis. Macleod had become a party to a bond of caution granted by Ross of Little Tarrel in the sum of ?50 sterling, for which, in 1656, an apprising was laid upon the estate of Assynt, at the instance of Sinclair of Mey, in Caithness, who subsequently assigned his claim to Sir George Mackenzie of Tarbat and John Mackenzie, second son of Kenneth Mor, third Earl of Seaforth, afterwards known as the Hon. John Mackenzie of Assynt. The matter was contested for a time, but "in the year 1668 or 1669 or 1670, the legal apprising being expired, decree of mails and duties was obtained upon the claim against the estate of Assynt and ejection against himself. Upon pursuing this ejection in 1671, several illegal steps were alleged against Assynt, particularly holding out the Castle of Ard-Bhreac against the King, and his otherwise violently opposing the ejection; whereupon Neil of Assynt, who it seems had been negligent in defending himself against the foresaid accusations, was denounced rebel, and a commission of fire and sword was obtained in July, 1672, against him and his people," granted to Lord Strathnaver, Lord Lovat, Munro of Fowlis, and others, who at once invaded his territories with a force of 2300 men "and committed the most horrid barbarities," until all the country of Assynt was destroyed.
After this raid Neil, "under the benefit of a protection," went to consult Seaforth, who gave him a certificate of having obeyed the King's laws, and fifteen days to consider a proposition which his lordship made to him to dispose of his estates to himself on certain conditions, and so settle the dispute between them for ever. But Macleod, considering that it was not safe for him to return to his own country, resolved to proceed to Edinburgh by sea, and to carry his charter chest along with him.
"Seaforth being apprehensive, it seems, of the con-sequences of Assynt's going to Edinburgh, immediately entered into correspondence and concert about the matter with the Laird of Mey, in Caithness. The consequence was: Assynt being driven by unfavourable winds to the Orkneys the Laird of Mey, with a body of men, seized him there, to be sure under the notion of an outlaw, and, by commission from Seaforth, stripped him to his shirt, robbed him of everything, particularly of his charter chest, and of all the writs and evidents belonging to his family and estates, carried them to the castle of Mey; where he was kept prisoner in a vault. From thence he was carried prisoner, under a strong guard, to Tam, and at last to Brahan, Seaforth's house. In Brahan (to which place the charter chest was brought, as was afterwards proved in the Process of Spoilzie) Neil was many months detained prisoner in a vault, in most miserable circumstances, still threatened with worse usage if he would not agree to subscribe a blank paper, probably designed for a disposition of his estates, which was, it seems, the great thing designed to be procured from him by all this bad usage. At last Neil was brought south to Edinburgh, where he arrived after being in thirteen or fourteen prisons, and in the end he obtained the remission formerly mentioned," for the offence of defending the Castle of Assynt, and all the other crimes that were alleged against him.
His apologist makes out a strong case for him, if half his allegations are true. In any case it is but fair to state them. Neil was in prison, according to the "Information," when the ejection proceedings were carried out against him. He was ignorant of the legal steps taken against him until it was too late, and, in consequence of his great distance from Edinburgh, he was unable to correspond with his legal advisers there in time for his defence. His messengers, carrying his correspondence, were more than once seized, on their way south, and imprisoned at Chanonry. When in the south, the contributions of his friends towards his support and the expenses of his defence were intercepted, and his people at home were put to great hardships by their new master, the Hon. John Mackenzie, "for any inclination to succour him in his distress." "By all these means, the unfortunate gentleman was reduced to great poverty and misery, and was disabled from procuring the interest or affording the expense needful in order to obtain justice against such potent adversaries."
And "it was easy for them (the Mackenzies), being now possessed of his estate, to get in old unjust patched claims from such as had them, and being possessed of his charter chest and the retired vouchers of debts therein contained, by all these means, to make additional titles to the estate of Assynt, while he, poor gentleman, besides his other misfortunes, was deprived of his writs and of all his evidences needful to be produced in his defence against the claims of his adversaries." If a tithe of all this is true poor Neil deserves to be pitied indeed. But after giving such a long catalogue of charges, involving the most cruel and deceitful acts against the Mackenzies, the author of them is himself doubtful about their accuracy, for he says that, although the Mackenzies, after possessing the estates, had all the advantages and means for doing the unjust things which he alleges against them of inventing new claims and additional titles, "it is not pretended to be now told what additional titles they made" --an admission which largely discounts and disposes of the other charges made by Macleod's apologist. And, notwithstanding all his disadvantages and difficulties, Neil made another effort "towards obtaining justice to himself and his family"; and to that end, in 1679 and 1680, he commenced a new process against Seaforth and all others "whom he knew to have or pretended to have" claims against him or his estate. It was, however, objected (1) that he had no title in his own person to the lands of Assynt, and (2) that he was at the horn and had no personam standi in judices.
Neil made "very pertinent" answers to these objections in 1682, but he was wisely advised to stop the proceedings of reduction, and to commence a Process of Spulzie against the Earl Sinclair, of Mey, the Laird of Dunbeath, and others. Seaforth having died while these proceedings were pending, there appears in process an Oath by his successor, "who swears that he not then nor formerly had the charter chest, nor knew what was become of it; and as he was not charged with having a hand in the Spulzie he was freed thereof and of the consequences of it, by their Lordships.
Neil having given in an inventory of the writs contained in his chest, his oath in litem was taken thereanent, and he referred his expenses and damages to the judgment of the Lords," with the result that, in 1692, they decerned in his favour for the sum of two thousand pounds Scots, in name of damages and expenses, to be paid to him by the defenders, and at the same time superseding his further claim until he should give in more particulars regarding it. He assigned this decree to his nephew, Captain Donald Macleod of Geanies, and it remained as the basis of the process which was raised by Norman Macleod, XIX. of Macleod, in 1738, already referred to "for what thereof is unpaid." But Neil, "being unable by unparalleled bad usage, trouble, and poverty, and at length by old age, it does not appear that lie went any further towards obtaining of justice for himself than what is above narrated in relation to the process of reduction and Spulzie"; and that his friends failed in their subsequent efforts to punish Mackenzie or re-possess themselves of the Assynt estates is sufficiently well-known. [For Neil's connection with the Betrayal of Montrose see Mackenzie's History of the Macleods, pp. 410-419.]
In 1648 Seaforth again raised a body of 4000 men in the Western Islands and Ross-shire, whom he led south, to aid the King's cause, but after joining in a few skirmishes under Lanark, they returned home to "cut their corn which was now ready for their sickles." During the whole of this period Seaforth's fidelity to the Royal cause was open to considerable suspicion, and when Charles I. threw himself into the hands of the Scots at Newark, and ordered Montrose to disband his forces, Earl George, always trying to be on the winning side, came in to Middleton, and made terms with the Committee of Estates; but the Church, by whom he had previously been excommunicated, continued implacable, and would only agree to be satisfied by a public penance in sackcloth within the High Church of Edinburgh. The proud Earl consented, underwent this ignominious and degrading ceremonial, and his sentence of excommunication was then removed. Notwithstanding this public humiliation, after the death of the ill-fated and despotic Charles I., Seaforth, in 1649, went over to Holland, and joined Charles II., by whom he was made Principal Secretary of State for Scotland, the duties of which, however, he never had the opportunity of performing.