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HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.
CONTAINING A REVIEW OF THE SCOTTISH HISTORY PREVIOUS TO THE DEATH OF JAMES V.
THE first ages of the Scottish History are dark and fabulous. Nations, as well as men, arrive at maturity by degrees, and the events which happened during their infancy or early youth, cannot be recollected, and deserve not to be remembered. The gross ignorance which anciently covered all the north of Europe, the continual migrations of its inhabitants, and the frequent and destructive revolutions which these occasioned, render it impossible to give any authentic account of the origin of the different kingdoms now established there. Every thing beyond that short period to which well attested annals reach is obscure; an immense space is left for invention to occupy; each nation, with a vanity inseparable from human nature, hath filled that void with events calculated to display its own antiquity and lustre. History, which ought to record truth and to teach wisdom, often sets out with retailing fictions and absurdities.
The Scots carry their pretensions to antiquity as high as any of their neighbours. Relying upon uncertain legends, and the traditions of their bards, still more uncertain, they reckon up a series of kings several ages before the birth of Christ; and give a particular detail of the occurrences which happened in their reigns. But with regard to the Scots, as well as the other northern nations, we receive the earliest accounts on which we can depend, not from their own, but from the Roman authors . When the Romans, under Agricola, first carried their arms into the northern parts of Britain, they found it possessed by the Caledonians, a fierce and warlike people; and having repulsed rather than conquered them, they erected a strong wall between the Firths of Forth and Clyde, and there fixed the boundaries of their empire . Adrian, on account of the difficulty o defending such a distant frontier, contracted the limits of the Roman province in Britain, by building a second wall, which ran between Newcastle and Carlisle. The ambition of succeeding emperors endeavoured to recover what Adrian had abandoned; and the country between the two walls was alternately under the dominion of the Romans and that of the Caledonians. About the beginning of the fifth century, the inroads of the Goths and other barbarians obliged the Romans, in order to defend the centre of their empire, to recall those legions which guarded the frontier provinces; and at that time they quitted all their conquests in Britain.
421.] Their long residence in the island had polished, in some degree, the rude inhabitants, and the Britons were indebted to their intercourse with the Romans, for the art of writing and the use of numbers, without which it is impossible long to preserve the memory of past events.
North Britain was, by their retreat, left under the dominion of the Scots and Picts. The former, who are not mentioned by any Roman author
before the end of the fourth century, were probably a colony of the Celta or Gauls; their affinity to whom appears from their language, their manners, and religious rites; circumstances more decisive with regard to the origin of nations than either fabulous traditions or the tales of ill-informed and credulous annalists. The Scots, if we may believe the common accounts, settled at first in Ireland; and extending themselves by degrees, landed at last on the coast opposite to that island, and fixed their habitations there. Fierce and bloody wars were, during several ages, carried on between them and the Picts . At length, Kenneth II., the sixty-ninth king of the Scots (according to their own fabulous authors), obtained a complete victory over the Picts, and united under one monarchy all the country from the wall of Adrian to the Northern Ocean. The kingdom henceforward became known by its present name, which is derived from a people who at first settled there as strangers, and remained long obscure and inconsiderable.
From this period the History of Scotland would merit some attention, were it accompanied with any certainty. But as our remote antiquities are involved in the same darkness with those of other nations, a calamity peculiar to ourselves has thrown almost an equal obscurity over our more recent transactions. This was occasioned by the malicious policy of Edward I. of England. Towards the end of the thirteenth century, this monarch called in question the independence of Scotland; pretending that the kingdom was held as a fief of the crown of England, and subjected to all the conditions of a feudal tenure. In order to establish his claim, he seized the public archives, he ransacked churches and monasteries, and getting possession, by force or fraud, of many historical monuments, which tended to prove the antiquity or freedom of the kingdom, he carried some of them into England, and commanded the rest to be burnt.* A universal oblivion of past transactions might have been the effect of this fatal event, but some imperfect chronicles had escaped the rage of Edward; foreign writers had recorded some important facts relating to Scotland; and the traditions concerning recent occurrences were fresh and worthy of credit. These broken fragments John de Fordun, who lived in the fourteenth century, collected with a pious industry, and from them gleaned materials which he formed into a regular history. His work was received by his countrymen with applause: and, as no recourse could be had to more ancient_records, it supplied the place of the authentic annals of the kingdom. It was copied in many monasteries, and the thread of the narrative was continued, by different monks, through the subsequent reigns. In the beginning of the sixteenth century, John Major, and Hector Boethius pub lished their histories of Scotland, the former a succinct and dry writer, the latter a copious and florid one, and both equally credulous. Not many years after, Buchanan undertook the same work; and if his accuracy and impartiality had been, in any degree, equal to the elegance of his taste, and to the purity and vigour of his style, his history might be placed on a level with the most admired compositions of the ancients. But, instead of rejecting the improbable tales of chronicle writers, he was at the utmost pains to adorn them; and hath clothed, with all the beauties and graces of fiction, those legends, which formerly had only its wildness and extravagance.
The History of Scotland may properly be divided into four periods. The first reaches from the origin of the monarchy to the reign of Kenneth II. The second, from Kenneth's conquest of the Picts to the death of Alexander III. The third extends to the death of James V. The last, from thence to the accession of James VI. to the crown of England.
The first period is the region of pure fable and conjecture, and ought
*Innes, Essay 552,
to be totally neglected, or abandoned to the industry and credulity of antiquaries. Truth begins to dawn in the second period, with a light, feeble at first, but gradually increasing, and the events which then happened may be slightly touched, but merit no particular or laborious inquiry. In the third period, the History of Scotland, chiefly by means of records preserved in England, becomes more authentic: not only are events related, but their causes and effects explained; the characters of the actors are displayed; the manners of the age described; the revolutions in the constitution pointed out: and here every Scotsman should begin not to read only, but to study the history of his country. During the fourth period, the affairs of Scotland were so mingled with those of other nations, its situation in the political state of Europe was so important, its influence on the operations of the neighbouring kingdoms was so visible, that its history becomes an object of attention to foreigners; and without some knowledge of the various and extraordinary revolutions which happened there, they cannot form a just notion with respect either to the most illustrious events, or to the characters of the most distinguished personages in the sixteenth century.
The following history is confined to the last of these periods: to give a view of the political state of the kingdom during that which immediately preceded it is the design of this preliminary book. The imperfect knowledge which strangers have of the affairs of Scotland, and the prejudices Scotsmen themselves have imbibed, with regard to the various revolutions in the government of their country, render such an introduction equally necessary to both.
The period from the death of Alexander III. to the death of James V contains upwards of two centuries and a half, from the year one thousand two hundred and eighty-six, to the year one thousand five hundred and forty-two.
It opens with the famous controversy concerning the independence of Scotland. Before the union of the two kingdoms, this was a question of much importance. If the one crown had been considered, not as imperial and independent, but as feudatory to the other, a treaty of union could not have been concluded on equal terms, and every advantage which the dependent kingdom procured must have been deemed the concession of a sovereign to his vassal. Accordingly, about the beginning of the present century, and while a treaty of union between the two kingdoms was negotiating, this controversy was agitated with all the heat which national animosities naturally inspire. What was then the subject of serious concern, the union of the two kingdoms has rendered a matter of mere curiosity. But though the objects which at that time warmed and interested both nations exist no longer, a question which appeared so momentous to our ancestors cannot be altogether indifferent or uninstructive to us.
Some of the northern counties of England were early in the hands of the Scottish kings, who, as far back as the feudal customs can be traced, held these possessions of the kings of England, and did homage to them on that account. This homage, due only for the territories which they held in England, was in nowise derogatory from their royal dignity. Nothing is more suitable to feudal ideas than that the same person should be both a lord and a vassal, independent in one capacity, and dependent in another.* The crown of England was, without doubt, imperial and independent,
* A very singular proof of this occurs in the French History, Arpin sold the vicomte of the city of Bourges to Philip I., who did homage to the count of Sancerre for a part of these lands, which held of that nobleman, A. D. 1100. I believe that no example of a king's doing homage to one of his own subjects is to be met with in the histories either of England or Scotland. Philip le Bel abolished this practice in France, A, D. 1302. Henault. Abrege Chronol. Somewhat similar to this, is a charter of the Abbot of Melross, A. D. 1535, constituting James V. the Bailiff or Steward of that Abbey, vesting in him all the powers which pertained to that office, and requiring him to be answerable to the Abbot for his exercise of the same. Archiv. publ. Edin.
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though the princes who wore it were, for many ages, the vassals of the kings of France; and, in consequence of their possessions in that kingdom, bound to perform all the services which a feudal sovereign_has a title to exact. The same was the condition of the monarchs of Scotland: free and independent as kings of their own country, but, as possessing English territories, vassals to the kings of England. The English monarchs, satisfied with their legal and uncontroverted rights, were, during a long period, neither capable nor had any thoughts of usurping more. England when conquered by the Saxons, being divided by them into many small kingdoms, was in no condition to extend its dominion over Scotland, united at that time under one monarch. And though these petty principalities were gradually formed into one kingdom, the reigning princes, exposed to con tinual invasions of the Danes, and often subjected to the yoke of those formidable pirates, seldom turned their arms towards Scotland, and were little able to establish new rights in that country. The first kings of the Norman race, busied with introducing their own laws and manners into the kingdom which they had conquered, or with maintaining themselves on the throne which some of them possessed by a very dubious title, were as little solicitous to acquire new authority, or to form new pretensions in Scotland. An unexpected calamity that befell one of the Scottish kings first encouraged the English to think of bringing his kingdom under dependence. William, surnamed the Lion, being taken prisoner at Alnwick, Henry II., as the price of his liberty, not only extorted from him an exorbitant ransom, and a promise to surrender the places of greatest strength in his dominions, but compelled him to do homage for his whole kingdom. Richard I., a generous prince, solemnly renounced this claim of homage; and absolved William from the hard conditions which Henry had imposed. Upon the death of Alexander III., near a century after, Edward I., availing himself of the situation of affairs in Scotland, acquired an influence in that kingdom which no English monarch before him ever possessed, and imitating the interested policy of Henry, rather than the magnanimity of Richard, revived the claim of sovereignty to which the former had pretended.
Margaret of Norway, granddaughter of Alexander, and heir to his crown, did not long survive him. The right of succession belonged to the descendants of David earl of Huntingdon, third son of King David I. Among these, Robert Bruce, and John Baliol, two illustrious competitors for the crown, appeared. Bruce was the son of Isabel, earl David's second daughter; Baliol, the grandson of Margaret the eldest daughter. According to the rules of succession which are now established, the right of Baliol was preferable; and notwithstanding Bruce's plea of being nearer in blood to earl David, Baliol's claim, as the representative of his mother and grandmother, would be deemed incontestable. But in that age the order of succession was not ascertained with the same precision. The question appeared to be no less intricate than it was important. Though the prejudices of the people, and perhaps the laws of the kingdom favoured Bruce, each of the rivals was supported by a powerful faction. Arms alone, it was feared, must terminate a dispute too weighty for the laws to decide. But, in order to avoid the miseries of a civil war, Edward was chosen umpire, and both parties agreed to acquiesce in his decree. This had well nigh proved fatal to the independence of Scotland; and the nation, by its eagerness to guard against a civil war, was not only exposed to that calamity, but almost subjected to a foreign yoke. Edward was artful, brave, enterprising, and commanded a powerful and martial people, at peace with the whole world. The anarchy which prevailed in Scotland, and the ambition of competitors ready to sacrifice their country in order to obtain even a dependent crown, invited him first to seize and then to subject the kingdom. The authority of an umpire, which had been unwarily bestowed upon him, and from which the Scots dreaded no dangerous con