« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
of this king because of his violent death; he who has lived well cannot die ill;" while Wynton quotes a lament for the plenty and prosperity which vanished with the last of the "Kings of Peace."
The death of Alexander, followed so closely by the wreck of the fair scheme for the marriage of his granddaughter and heiress with the heir of England, lands us straight in the crucial period of Scottish history. It hinges upon the suzerainty question which opens up a very ocean of controversy, wherein it seems bootless to plunge the reader mere review, upon the interpretation of Latin legal phrases in documents of which the authenticity has been called in question. Except Heron, no Scottish historian has ventured to take the English view, any more than hereafter will any Dutch writer admit that Mr Chamberlain had any case in his dispute with President Kruger. Mr Lang holds with Mr Robertson that the homage done to William the Conqueror by Malcolm Canmore in 1072, at Abernethy, "for all that he had," affords the only plausible argument for English supremacy. William the Lion submitted, under the treaty of Falaise in 1174, to conditions even more onerous than those imposed by William the Conqueror; but sixteen years later Richard Coeur de Lion allowed the Scottish king to buy up that treaty, which was thereupon annulled. International relations reverted to the status quo ante Falaise. If the validity of the Abernethy treaty
is admitted (and Mr Lang does not dispute it, although observing that it is disputable), then it is scarcely fair to blame subsequent English kings for endeavouring to enforce their rights under it. Probably Richard Coeur de Lion, in pressing want of cash for his crusade, was remiss in making sure that he was not giving away too much,-just as Lord Derby, when consenting to a new treaty with the Transvaal in 1884, left it in doubt how much of the 1881 Convention remained in force, and the Queen's Government has had to take arms to clear it up Yes, argues Mr Lang, but Henry III. gave the English case away because he neither held, nor tried to hold, Scotland during the minority of Alexander III., which it was his right to do had Scotland been a fief of the English crown. Now, it does not seem clear that the right of suzerainty lapses by reason of omission to enforce it upon every occasion. Was not the right safeguarded by that ever-recurring phrase, salvo jure suo
"saving his just rights," which tries Mr Lang's equanimity so sorely? When the English king uses it, it is a "loophole" and "pettifogging"; but when the identical words are employed by the Scottish king no objection is taken. Two years after his accession, King Alexander married Margaret, daughter of Henry III. It may surely be conceived that, however firmly he believed in his rights over Scotland, Henry might be acting under motives of expediency
and convenience in not raising troublesome questions under such auspicious circumstances. But let us not be drawn into the endless dispute. We have only touched upon it thus far because it brings us to the only question upon which we can pick a quarrel with Mr Langnamely, his doubts about the sincerity of Edward I. in the validity of his claim. Perhaps it is our own prepossession for one of the noblest of English kings that makes Mr Lang's judgment in this most complicated affair seem not quite free from bias. 66 Edward," says he, "must have known the fact about William the Lion's homage to Richard after the renunciation of the treaty of Falaise." Now William the Lion's homage to Richard was on the basis of the Abernethy convention, though of course it originated long before that. It is surely not too generous to credit Edward I. with a belief that the King of Scotland was thereby "his man." Mark that Edward's honesty in asserting the claim is a thing quite apart from the justice of that claim. When Edward's brother in law, Alexander III., died, Edward conceived the sagacious and pacific project of laying the contention to rest for ever by uniting the two realms in the persons of his own son and his grand-niece, the Maid of Norway, now Queen of Scotland -a project that received the assent of the Guardians of Scotland, and of her bishops, barons, and "all the community," the last, it is true, being difficult to define in the absence of representative institutions. Civil war
had broken out already between the rival prétendants Bruce and Baliol; Bishop Fraser of St Andrews wrote imploring Edward to approach the Border "for the consolation of the Scottish people." Suddenly all hopes were wrecked by the death of the Maid. Anarchy was imminent in Scotland, such as no reasonable ruler would permit at his doors, such as the Government of the United States found intolerable in Cuba: could Edward afford to waive the right which he had been instructed from boyhood was attached to the crown he wore? a right which gave him a title to support against all rivals whatever king might succeed to the Scottish throne, and a title to control him if such king proved powerless to maintain order. All the difference with Mr Lang, which we desire most respectfully to express, is that he has not made due allowance for Edward's duty to his own realm in very difficult circumstances; that there is not a shred of evidence to show that he doubted the inherited obligation of maintaining the claim of suzerainty; that, admitting that he departed from, or strained certain clauses in, the treaty of Birgham, and exceeded his rights in what he demanded of John Baliol, to say that “he never kept faith when he could help it," that he had "a peculiar genius for pettifogging,"
was a man of loopholes and escapes from his word," and that he tried "to wriggle out of his promises," is surely not quite in the spirit of "History as she ought to be wrote."
For his suspicion of Edward's
honesty, Mr Lang makes noble amend in respect to the charge of cruelty which has been far more persistently pressed against le Roi Covetous in his dealings with Scotland. The English penal code, forest laws, &c., are well known to have been much more severe than the Scottish, but until his wrath was inflamed by Bruce's treachery and crime, Edward dealt very leniently with those who resisted his authority. Thus, after the taking of Stirling
"Edward, on the whole, showed a sagacious clemency. He slew not, though he imprisoned, and he desired to send some knights abroad in token of his displeasure. The Bishop of Glasgow (who had, of course, broken his fourfold oath) had a similar sentence. Very different were to be the tender mercies of the House of Hanover."
Even after Bruce's revolt, Mr Lang shows that the "kages" constructed to hold the Countess of Buchan and Mary Bruce were not the hideous instruments of torment suggested by the term. They were simply rooms chambres cortoises is the description in the official orders for their constructionwithin turrets, and guarded by a lattice of iron and wood. There was a good deal of hanging, to be sure, at this time, Edward's cousin Athol, Nigel Bruce, and others; but, reflects the Jacobite Lang, "his vindictiveness did not exceed that of the Hanoverian government in the age of Hume, Johnson, Horace Walpole, and Voltaire. Edward had pushed the policy of clemency and trustfulness very far: he had invariably been met by perjury and revolt. His char
acter is not wholly amiable ; but we must admit that he had now unprecedented provocation. His opponents were not fighting, as Wallace fought, for king and country; they were fighting, at this moment, for their own hands."
To the circumstances of the slaying of John Comyn by Robert Bruce Mr Lang gives a great deal of patient care. The information upon these circumstances Mr Hume Brown pronounced to be of be of "the vaguest," and seems to have thought he had discharged his duty as a historian by describing this cardinal point in the national destiny in a single brief sentence. "On February 10, 1306, Robert Bruce, the grandson of the claimant, slew John Comyn, the late regent, in the chapel of the Minorite Convent at Dumfries.' Positively not another word about the whole of this momentous affair; yet, so far from being of "the vaguest," the information which has come down to our day from a number of sources is not only copious but minute. Unluckily, the accounts of various authorities do not tally except in the bare facts of the murder. Mr Lang carefully collates them, and then sums up as follows:
"While Fordun's tale is a Märchen, Gray's version implies deliberate murderous intention; but it is clear that Bruce had made no preparations for holding out against Edward. . . . We may suppose that a sudden quarrel broke out between two men who, long before (in Selkirk Forest, 1299), had flown at each other's throats, and that Bruce's act was an unpremeditated, but not unrepented, manslaughter. The inveterate waverer was thus baptised into heroism by
blood; he redeemed his character by a crime; and a life of strenuous excellence began in a sacrilegious homicide."
Some people will discern an excess of charity in this judgment, and may be inclined to ask, if "Bruce had made no preparations for holding out against Edward," what was the object and result of his secret treaty with Bishop Lamberton of St Andrews in June 1304, whereby the peer and the prelate bound themselves "in view of future dangers" to assist each other in all time coming against all persons whatsoever; that neither should undertake any business without consulting the other, and that each should warn the other of any approaching danger. Lamberton was a busy man, no doubt, and may have occasionally overlooked an engagement, but it was rather too strong an order when, having been brought to book and asked to explain the consistency of this treaty with his fealty to Edward and his oath as a privy councillor, he calmly said he had forgotten all about the secret league with Bruce! If Bruce had forgotten it also, such defective memory in exalted personages would go far to palliate their grievous proneness to perjury.
Upon another occasion, and in a different posture of affairs, Bruce's conduct is less leniently appraised by Mr Lang. It was nine years later than the affair at Dumfries; le Roi Covetous had gone to his rest; Edward of Carnarvon was running his pitiable course; Bannockburn had been lost and won, and the ealm of Scotland was under
the sceptre of Bruce, who confiscated the lands of all who would not come in to his peace - that is, who would not acknowledge him as their king. Quoth Mr Lang: "It was not good feudal policy to drive unfaithful subjects desperate by confiscation. . . . Bruce's forfeitures were, for many years after his death, fatal to his country." What, then, would have been the wiser course to take with intransigenti, many of whom owned as much or more land in England than they did in Scotland? In the present happy age, when the whole armed force of the country is subject to the will of Parliament, and it is nearly everybody's interest to back up the police, we can, and do, afford the experiment of killing treason with kindness. Not until anarchists take to pranks with dynamite does the Government begin to treat them to hard labour instead of soft sawder. But it was far different in the fourteenth century, when the levies did their lords' bidding, and the king relied for his army on the loyalty of landowners. Mr Lang does not exaggerate the trouble which came from the disinherited lords; but if these had been left to come in or stay out at their pleasure, might not the king have foreseen trouble from among his own followers also, of whom many had suffered forfeiture both of English and Scottish possessions in his cause? How little reliance could be placed upon disinterested loyalty was to be shown a few years later in the de Soulis conspiracy, of which the
king's own brother-in-law, Sir David of Brechin, with a record of splendid service to his credit, was in the secret, and suffered a traitor's death. Barbour says that when de Soulis was apprehended he had a retinue of three hundred and sixty squires, "outane (besides) knichtis that war joly." Considering the power which the feudal system placed under direct control of landowners, how contagious was the force of example, and how much imperfect communication tended to foster sedition, no other course consistent with safety was possible to the king but that which he took. There is not a single act recorded in Robert Bruce's life, subsequent to the tragedy in Dumfries, inconsistent with singular clemency to his enemies-foreign or domestic-but it would have been clemency carried over the bounds of common sense to allow some of his powerful subjects, who were subjects also of another and a hostile king, to use their power and position as levers against his own.
To what use did the Scots put their independence when they got it? Alas! not a very profitable one.
"From the hour when James I. was hacked to pieces in a drain the history of Scotland, for 150 years, revolved in one sad circle. Each king, dying young in war, or by the hands of assassins, or of sheer fatigue and broken heart, left a minor to succeed him. The minority was filled by the intrigues of unscrupulous plotters, to whom the person of the king was much like the Great Seal, a thing to be seized and used by force or fraud. Each king, as he
came to full age, threw off the yoke of the party which had held his youth in thraldom. Executions and
confiscations followed, and these left their heritage of vendettas to distract queathed their generation of renethe remainder of the reign, and begades, often Douglases, to intrigue with England.
The same old
tragedy is repeated, with slight changes in the names and dresses
of the characters."
Each king, as he came to manhood, seized the sceptre with the best possible intentions of vigorous justice and watchful administration; each found himself unequal to circumstances, and the good intentions went as material for the proverbial pavement. The exception was James III., an æsthetic dreamer, with hazardous tendencies to theological controversy vindictive sentiments towards "wiches." He had no particular intentions of any kind, save to encourage musicians and architecture : but his nobles disapproved of his consorting with "fiddlers and bricklayers"; his taste for cinquecento jewels they considered priggish; and so, as his murderers phrased it, he, too, "happinit to be slain, almost within a bow-shot of the spot where Bruce overthrew de Bohun on the banks of Bannock.
None of the Stuarts began with better intentions than the first James, "the ablest and not the most scrupulous" of them. Determined that "the key should keep the castle and the bracken - bush the cow" throughout his realm, his headsman and hangman enjoyed no sinecures. But his initial coup d'état was not so sweeping as Tytler, Burton, and others have made out, misreading a confused sentence in Bower's Chronicle.