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B00 K and to teach wisdom, often sets out with retailing

fictions and absurdities. Origin of

The Scots carry their pretensions to antiquity as the Scots. high as any of their neighbours. Relying upon un

certain 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 occurences 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 A.D. 81. 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 conquer-
ed them, they erected a strong wall between the

firths of Forth and Clyde, and there fixed the boundA.D. 121. aries of their empire. Adrian, on account of the

difficulty of defending such a distant frontier, con-
tracted the limits of the Roman province in Britain,
by building a second wall, which ran between New-
castle 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


A. D. 421.

Their long residence in the island had polished, B 0 0 K 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


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 Celtæ 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 A. D. 838. 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 History of merit some attention, were it accompanied with

Scotland any

peculiarly certainty. But as our remote antiquities are in- obscure.


BO O K volved in the same darkness with those of other

nations, a calamity peculiar to ourselves has thrown alınost 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 burned. An 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

Innes, Essay 552.


of the sixteenth century, John Major and Hector B O O K Boethius published thei: 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 Four re

markable into four periods. The first reaches from the origin of the monarchy to the reign of Kenneth II. The Scottish

history. 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 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

æras in the 1.

BO O K 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 cerning of the two kingdoms, this was a question of much

A review of the third æra.

Rise of the controversy con

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