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The prosperity of the middle class had passed away like a dream. Swept by the storms of English invasion, neither town nor country could afford a secure resting-place for peaceful industry. Trade was no more, agriculture ceased to be worthy of the name; burgesses and peasantry alike sank into insignificance and misery. The history of Scotland, during this dreary time, is but a record of savage feuds among the nobles themselves, and of an inveterate antagonism between the strength of the nobles and the weakness of the Crown,
• A leafless branch her sceptre, and her throne
But urged by storms along its slippery way.' It was the rare felicity of England that, in the early struggles between her nobles and her king, constitutional safeguards were established, which afterwards did good service in many a perilous contest. Scotland had no such fortune. While the nobles of England contended for behoof of those liberties which belong to all classes of men, the nobles of Scotland sought only for license to plunder and oppress. Throughout long years of conflict our sympathies are almost uniformly with the King. For the cause of the Crown was the cause of order and good government, the cause of the nobles was the cause of rapine and turbulence. The mischief began with the wars of the dispossessed barons in the reign of David. These men, indeed, it were absurd to blame. They were of the same class as the original competitors for the throne of Scotland-brilliant adventurers, without any ties to Scotland, without in fact any ties of nationality at all—and as no one can seriously blame the men of the former generation for offering their homage to Edward in order to preserve their Scotch estates, still less can any charge be justly urged against the men of the second generation seeking to regain the estates of which the War of Independence had deprived them. But with the accession of the House of Stewart this came to an end. Every man in all classes of society had then cast in his lot with one country or the other. The Norman alien had passed from the land, or had changed into the Scottish noble-just as, years before, he had in England. The men of this new order of things were in every sense of the word Scotchmen, and yet for the furtherance of their own selfish and lawless aims they set themselves in opposition to authority, and did what in them lay to obstruct the advancement of the country in civilisation and prosperity. The causes of the extravagant power of the Scotch nobility have been enumerated by Robertson. He ascribes it mainly to the extensive possessions of certain families, to
the security afforded to rebellious lords by the defensible nature of the country, to the necessary effect of the English wars in weakening the central authority, to the hereditary jurisdictions which the legislature often but vainly attempted to control, to the habit of entering into bonds for mutual defence, to the long minorities of the Crown, and to the absence of any such counterpoise as was supplied by the peasantry and commercial towns of England. To these we would add another, the readiness of the Scotch nobility to betray their country whenever it suited them to do so.
This, we think, strengthened them in their struggles with the Crown more than all the other causes put together; it was with treason they began their rebellion against James III., it was by the help of treason that they triumphed over the vigour of James V. There are doubtless occasions when, for a great cause and in a desperate emergency, the aid of foreigners may be invoked in a domestic quarrel. Thus the Scotch Protestants looked for help to Elizabeth ; thus the French Huguenots sought assistance from the same source; thus the English Opposition urged the Scotch to invade England in 1640 ; thus they summoned the Dutch in 1688. But no case of this sort can be made out for the Scotch nobles. They transferred their allegiance to England simply that they might gain their individual ends, or at least that they might strengthen their order. And the higher we go the more marked do we find this overbearing turbulence, and this faithlessness to their country. A certain halo of romance surrounds the name of Douglas, legends of chivalrous enterprise were long associated with the memory of the good Lord James, and Otterburn is even yet a word to charm with. Hence the lasting popularity of that House in spite of ambition, unruliness, and cruelty. They would have been very differently regarded had their countrymen known what we now know. Their frequent rebellions made little against them; but no memories of the past could have won forgiveness for their repeated alliances with the English king. With them such treason was no rare occurrence, but, in the words of Mr. Burton, was consistent with the policy
of this House. Very different were the feelings of the commonalty. Mr. Burton has only found one instance in which reference is made to any portion of the people as likely to change their allegiance; and this was with regard to the Armstrongs, a border race who had little more than a nominal allegiance to change. It is not too much to say that as it was the spirit of the middle class which first won Scottish liberty, so it was the persistency of that class which maintained it. In
these early times there is but little to admire among the Scotch nobles. To find aught worthy to be placed beside the great families of England we must come down many years to the time when capacity for affairs, zeal for freedom, and love of toleration became conspicuous in the House of Argyle.
Against a power so great and so unscrupulously wielded, the efforts of the kings were of no avail. James I. took the matter in his own hand; James II. sought the feeble assistance of his Parliament; James V. invoked the more powerful aid of the clergy; but all equally in vain. Robertson, while admitting that the policy of these princes was not attended with success, yet cautions us against the conclusion that it was not dictated by prudence. Doubtless many circumstances combined to frustrate the endeavours of the Crown. Still, an uneasy impression will intrude that those endeavours were not always directed by wisdom, or tempered by moderation. In the records of those old struggles we seem to trace some of the characteristics which marked the Stewart race in times better known-high-mindedness, an impatience of independent opinion and a consequent addiction to favouritism, a love of so-called state-craft which was always shallow, and, if we may use the expression, an impetuous obstinacy. Especially do we remark those hereditary faults of the fated race in James II. and James V.; though in both relieved by fine and noble qualities. The Prince who won the title of King of
the Commons,' must have had no small share of that urbanity and good nature which in Charles II. so often charmed away the resentment of an injured nation. James I. was the one statesman of the dynasty. He bid fair for success; his rash haste alone caused his failure and death. James IV. was a blustering knight-errant -- unable to appreciate, still more unable to follow out, the traditionary policy of his House. James III. was, we suspect, a puzzle to his own time; is certainly one to ours. Mr. Burton frankly admits that he cannot discover whether this Prince was influenced by a love of low society, or by a taste superior to his age—whether of his two chief favourites, one was a low fiddler or the author of the national music of Scotland, the other a mere mason or ' the artist to whom we may attribute the revival of architee'ture in the country.' One thing we do certainly knowthat the democratic element in the country supported the accomplished Prince, and was opposed to the brutality of Bell the Cat, and his gang of titled rebels. On the whole, after making every allowance,
we cannot feel that any prince of that fated race--not even James I.- was equal to the times in which he
lived and the work he had to do. The fitful energy which inspired their assaults on an overgrown nobility seems but feebleness when we think of the subtlety, the sagacity, the unflinching determination with which a man like Louis XI. addressed himself to a similar policy. Mr. Burton gives
us little help towards understanding these stormy times. In fact, as we have already said, the Kingly period is the least effective part of his book. There are, amid much misery, some picturesque features in the story. The wild and shifting scenes in the minority of James II., the
gay court which James IV. gathered round him, the adventures of that Prince and of James V. in the fashion of Haroun Alraschid--these and other such themes might have grown into brilliant pictures beneath the hand of an artist. The pictorial style of writing, however, is not in Mr. Burton's way. But we are certainly disappointed at the absence of anything like a grasp of the epoch as a whole. Failing all attempt to realise for us the life of a period, we are entitled to look for some philosophical conception of its general tendencies, some estimate of its influences on the development of the nation. We find no effort at anything of the kind in Mr. Burton's pages. His narrative from the accession of David to the death of James V. bears, we think, obvious traces of having been executed as an uncongenial task.
After the death of James V. we pass into Robertson's fourth period, when the history of Scotland becomes closely mixed up with the history of the leading nations in Europe. The key to a true understanding of the early part of this epoch is the change which then took place in the relations of Scotland with France and England. Up to this time the main effect of the alliance between France and Scotland had been to the prejudice of the weaker country. Scotland gained but little aid from French auxiliaries in her resistance to England; while the requirement that, in event of a war between France and England, Scotland should be bound to attack the latter, worked somewhat like the alliance between the giant and the dwarf in the fable. On the other hand, the interposition of Scotland had but little effect on the contests of the greater countries. She could sometimes occasion annoyance to England; and her soldiers fought well on more than one French battle-field, but that was all. The English-French wars would probably have come to the same results had Scotland not existed.
As the sixteenth century wore on and the first heavings of the coming convulsion were felt, the insignificance of Scotland became a thing of the past. Throughout his administration
Wolsey set before himself, as an object of vital importance, the exclusion from Scotland of the Duke of Albany and the French faction, and the training of the realm into the amity of England.'
The French had many advantages in the struggle. They had possession of the ground: they were the ancient allies of the kingdom. True, they had never been personally popular. Their airs of superiority, their easy faith, their utter disregard of the rights of others, made them disliked in Scotland, just as long afterwards the same qualities made them disliked in Ireland. During the regency of Albany their unpopularity had grown to a height. And even at that time an uneasy feeling began to intrude that the French alliance might possibly prove as dangerous to the independence of Scotland as the enmity of England. The murder of de La Bastie came not only from dislike of the French, but also from a fear of French supremacy. This juncture, therefore, was England's opportunity for carrying out her long-cherished aims. That the opportunity was lost, that the enmity of Scotland was intensified, that England, in consequence of that enmity, became exposed to extreme danger, was altogether owing to the criminal folly of Henry VIII. No English monarch had ever such a chance afforded him of conciliating Scotland. Henry threw the chance away with his eyes open in obedience to his unruly passion. He had been fully made aware of the right course to pursue. Achitophel himself could not have given better counsel than George Douglas, brother of the Earl of Angus, gave the English ambassador. He warned him that force would be of no avail—that all the commonalty, the very boys on the street, nay, the old women with their distaffs, would rise up against a compulsory union with England. But with patience, and gentle means, urged the Scottish noble, much might be done. Let the English monarch preserve peace, let him encourage the intercourse of the two nations, above all let him invite the youth of the Scottish nobility to his magnificent court, and the great end would be attained in time. Henry would listen to no such counsels. During the reign of James V. his scheme for gaining over the Scottish people was to kidnap the Scottish King. After James' death his violence was yet less restrained. He was resolved to marry Mary to his son. There would have been no objection to the match ; but Henry insisted on gaining possession of Mary in the meantime. He swore he would drag the child from the strongest fortress they could hold her in ;' and when Suffolk remonstrated on the wildness of such