Obrazy na stronie

first hear of Free Trade for giving full employment to the people, and this we confidently predict will be found wanting; Then a law of pauperism for giving full relief to the people, and this will be found worse than wanting-ruinous. Then cottage allotments, giving rise to similar aggregates of population as those wherewith we have been long familiar in Scotland,-villages of small feuars, and through which it has been attempted to raise the comfort, but altogether in vain, when unaccompanied by any direct

provision for raising the character and intelligence of families. Then emigration, which, though tried on a scale of national magnitude, may of itself be expected to ease the pressure, but most assuredly will not be found to land us in a better or happier commonalty than before. The only reform in fact to which, apart from the moral and the educational, we can look

any degree of confidence, is the attempt now meditated, and which, under the able guidance of Lord Morpeth, we trust will not prove abortive, for a sanitory improvement in the state and dwellings of the working classes. This, pro tanto, might effect a real amelioration on the health, but not necessarily, and it is certain of itself not generally, on the morals of the humbler classes. At all events, it is a fair and promising subject for legislation ; but we fear it will not be till after the experience of many failures, and the disappointment of many sanguine anticipations, that the eyes of our rulers will be open to the necessity, the prime and radical necessity, of a universal Christian education. The testimonies now so abundantly given to the importance of education in general, might be deemed an approximation to this last and only effectual solution of the great problem. And so it may if it but lead to the discovery, and therefore the acknowledgment, that a mere secular learning will not reach to the heart of that sore disease under which society is labouring; and that only on the basis of a scholarship leavened throughout with sound Christianity, can the peace and order and enduring prosperity of all classes be upholden.

Art. V.-1. Vindication of the Ancient Independence of Scotland.

By JOHN ALLEN. London: Charles Knight. 1833. 2. Documents and Records illustrating the History of Scotland

and the Transactions between the Crowns of England and Scotland, preserved in the Treasury of Her Majesty's Exchequer. Vol. I. Collected and Edited by SIR FRANCIS PALGRAVE, K.H. of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, Barrister at Law, Keeper of the Records in the aforesaid Treasury. Printed by Command of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, in pursuance of an Address of the House of Commons of Great Britain; and under the Direction of the Commissioners on the Public Records of the Kingdom. 1837.

The first of these publications is a little pamphlet, full of the good sense and temper of its lamented author. It was written for the purpose of setting right mistakes of late historians, and especially to meet a truculent attack upon those heroes whom we have been brought up to honour, who vindicated the independence of Scotland against the power and the art of Edward I. Sir Francis Palgrave has returned to the charge in the volume which we have mentioned last, and has made a Record publication the medium and channel of continuing his pleading against the ancient independence of Scotland.

Sir Francis Palgrave is a zealous Anglo-Saxon, and we have so much sympathy with that character that we must forgive him if his zeal sometimes outruns his discretion. He considers it to be necessary for the honour of the Anglo-Saxon name, that there should be, from the days of Hengist and Horsa downwards, a diadem

and sceptre of Sovereignty to sway all Britain within the

It is of no consequence to him that he cannot always find a head to wear “ the round and top of sovereignty and a hand to grasp his air-drawn sceptre. No matter that for centuries the Saxons in England found occupation in cutting each other's throats, or resisting the Danish invaders, without turning their attention to rounding their empire and extending it on every

side to the sea. They were predestined from the first to be the rulers of all Britain, and any insolent native tribes that dared to resist their divine right were properly treated as rebels. Wallace was traitor to his rightful sovereign, and hanged as he deserved; and Bruce is to be acknowledged only as a king de facto, a more successful rebel !

It is not that Sir Francis can greatly mislead in a matter like


this, which is open to every man of common curiosity and research. The danger is rather that his real accomplishments, his minute acquaintance with Anglo-Saxon antiquities, and the ingenious speculations he delights to raise upon them, should suffer some discredit, when men find the same complacent confidence with which he announces his discoveries in the English constitution, displayed in justifying the execution of Wallace as a common traitor to the crown of England. His passion indeed for discoveries is rather dangerous in a historian ; and it seems as if the slenderness of the evidence were but an additional incentive to confidence in adopting and announcing the result. Among the lumber of an old law process he finds an insulated assertion by one of the advocates, of a fact, which if admitted or proved should have served to decide the case. The thing is never alluded to again. It is not founded on in the judgment. It has never been mooted since that time, as it had never been heard of before, till in a lucky hour, just five hundred years afterwards, Sir Francis discovers the pleading; out of his discovery, without hesitation or doubt, works up an ingenious and quite new constitution for our fortunate country, and gravely tells us that there existed from the time whereof the memory of man runneth not to the contrary, a court or known and established constitutional body, denominated the “ Court of the seven Earls of Scotland,” possessing privileges of singular importance, as a distinct estate of the realm, and to whom, among other functions, it appertained to constitute, and absolutely to choose the king.

There are some contemporary chronicles in Scotland as well as in England, which might have been expected to mention such a body and its proceedings if it ever existed; but their silence does not affect our constitutional historian, nor “give him pause." It is unworthy of his attention that numerous volumes of Scotch charters and diplomata, the very foundations and materials of history, are equally silent. Like a fine sword-player, the knight fences best in the smallest room. He has but his one document, rather imperfect, and not very authentic, but he sees no reason for hesitation, holds the matter for settled, and indulges himself in speculations upon the apocryphal division of ancient Albania into seven provinces, of which the said seven earls were not, but ought to have been, the earls; and fortifies himself with the analogy of the twelve peers of France and the seven champions of Christendom!

But we have not room at present to deal with these toys of the learned historian; and the title of our paper suggests to us matter so much more attractive that we can only afford room for a general and rough view of the question of Scotch independency.

When Edward I. was meditating the subjugation of Scot

land—the rounding of his island domain-he thought it convenient to preface his proceedings with a claim of superiority, suzerainté as he might call it ; and in the opportunity of a disputed succession, and the selfishness of the competitors for the Crown, he found means to have that claim admitted. The competitors first, and afterwards the unhappy prince who was successful, did homage to Edward as their rightful superior and Lord Paramount of Scotland. Sir Francis Palgrave is of opinion that his claim was just and well founded. He thinks he can shew, that from the earliest times, the chief prince of the Anglo-Saxons in England was recognised as superior of all the peoples of Britain, and that this sovereignty was duly transmitted through the Norman kings of England after the Conquest.

Some of his arguments it is not very easy to deal with seriously: One is founded on the magniloquent titles assumed by the Anglo-Saxon kings themselves-Basileus-Rex Anglo-Saxonum cæterarumque gentium in circuitu persistentium-Rex totius AlbionisPrimicerius totius Britannia—an excellent plea for some future Palgrave of Persia, to prove the universal sovereignty of the Shāh-in-Shāh—the king of the kings of the earth! The taste for such titles is pretty general, and as old as the days of Agamemnon, though it may be questioned if the avač avògw of Homer expressed quite so much as Pope's “ king of men.”

Unluckily, among those orientals and their imitators, the smallest man is apt sometimes to take the biggest title. The custom infected even the “ subject” Scots, and we have ono kingling who ruled from Tees to the Moray Firth, with sundry exceptions and sore disputes, in virtue, we presume, of his Saxon blood and his name of Edgar, inscribing himself, like his betters, on his great seal, Edgarus Scottorum Basileus. These are pieces of harmless bombast, until they get into the hands of a constitutional writer who has to found a theory upon them: Sir Francis Palgrave's title of supremacy is Bretwalda, which he says of right belonged always to some one prince of the Saxons, and that it implied

the superiority over all the people called Britons. He does not shew that this title or dignity was inherited or elective. He does not prove that it was given by others as well as assumed by the prince who bore it. It is not pretended that it conferred any real authority upon its holder. We are not told who the people were whom the Saxons called Brets or Britons, and whether the Scots were of the number.

Another part of the argument rests upon alleged acts of homage done in ancient times by the kings of Scotland for their kingdom, to the sovereigns of England. The party in English his

tory to which Sir Francis Palgrave has given his adherence, has reyived in a harmless way the old feud with Scotland. They are sticklers for kings jure divino; zealous churchmen, whether Catholic or Anglican. They are indignant that Scotland, always contumacious and iconoclastic, the country that defeated Laud, and taught England to resist Charles to the death, should be held lawfully enfranchised, and declared of right independent. Their zeal blinds them. They are learned and critical enough in most matters, though with a leaning for a church-legend, especially if it go to establish the supremacy of Rome. But in this question it is amusing to observe how they grasp at every straw that offers them support. They press into their service even the pretty romantic fables that adorn the early history of all nations, and one of these calls forth all Sir Francis' eloquence :

“ The ancient contract (of homage) was renewed when Edgar assembled the subreguli of the empire at Chester to grace his triumph on the Dee. Kenneth, King of Scots, appears as the first of the train of vassal kings. He is followed by his nephew, Malcolm of Cumbria, and Maccus, the pirate king of Mona and the isles; by the princes of Galloway and of the Cymric tribes. They then took the oath of fealty, and entered into the obligation of military service, or of being the co-operators of their Lord by sea and land. On the following morn the eight vassals plied the oar whilst Edgar steered the bark upon the waters of the Dee--and though the homage may have been more specially rendered by Kenneth for Lothian, yet the dependence of the Ceancenneth upon Edgar, extended the superiority of the Basileus over the whole race, whose chieftain bent before his throne."History, vol. i. p. 475.

Sir Francis Palgrave cites a whole bede-roll of successive chroniclers to vouch this story, as if he made it more credible by his host of witnesses. Livy could have done the same to prove the leap of Curtius, After all, we have here but the usual growth of legendary history. The Anglo-Saxon lay" is taken up by one old chronicler, and copied by others, until it attracts the notice of a professed historian, when it is done into choice English by Sir Francis Palgrave as above. The concluding reasoning is quite worthy of the fable; and it is curious to observe the ordinary acuteness of the historian yielding to his willingness to believe. In the common case, such submissions follow

upon some defeat or serious reverse of fortune, and we are prepared for the vanquished buying mercy by professing homage. But, just then, the sturdy Kenneth had wrung from Edgar the fruitful province of Lothian. He had obtained another large slice of Northumbria, equivalent perhaps to the county of Cumberland, for his nephew Malcolm; and that is the time Sir

« PoprzedniaDalej »