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Edinburgh: Printed by Thomas and Archibald Conttabk,









Kith a f rsfatorp JJottre









I HAVE been asked to add a few words of preface
to this volume of Reviews, written by a deceased
friend and former pupil. He would have been a
distinguished man if he had lived, and those who
have an affection for his memory are naturally
desirous that he should be known to the world as
he was to them. He was taken suddenly from his
family and friends in the fulness of health and
strength, at a time when the difficulties of his career
were over, and he was beginning to reap the harvest
of success. Those who had opportunities of judging
were confident that he would soon have attained the
highest honours of his profession ; and his literary
talents, if he had written with his name, would
certainly have gained him eminence. He was
always going forward, and had he been spared a
few years longer would probably have done much
more than he did. He often expressed to an inti-
mate friend the ambition which he felt to produce
some permanent work, and would sketch out in
conversation a book upon the principal subjects of
English politics, which had long been in his thoughts.


But this design, though never given up, remained
unfulfilled ; it was not possible for him to find the
leisure which would have been required for such a

The Reviews contained in this volume were com-
posed, together with a good many others, in the
intervals of a busy professional life. They have a
peculiar value to those who knew him, because hia
own character is reflected in them. He wrote as he
talked, with great simplicity and energy. His was
a strong and manly intellect, remarkably fair and
straightforward; he had no crotchets or sentimental-
isms; he said exactly what he meant. His criti-
cisms, though not marked by any striking originality
of language or thought, come home to the reader
as having the pre-eminent merit of being always
careful and just. The discussions on Scottish his-
tory are very interesting and instructive, quite free
from national or any other prejudice. The subtle
characters of the two Lords Stair are analysed by
him with a true historical tact. He does justice,
which from a purely political point of view has
seldom been rendered, to the greatness of John
Knox. The same impartial judgment is applied
to the latest phase of the never-ending contro-
versy respecting Mary Queen of Scots.

He did not aim at novelty, and was never much
given to youthful enthusiasm of any kind. His
literary tastes inclined to the last generation rather
than to the present. He had a much greater love
of history and politics than of poetry or philosophy.


Of recent writers he would probably have rated
Lord Macaulay most highly : the Memoir of that
great man, which has appeared during the present
year, would have been read by him with singular
interest and delight. To some persons he would
have appeared old-fashioned in his views of life and
of the world. Though certainly intended by nature
for anything rather than a puritan or an ascetic,
he was a great enemy to "new moralities." He
was not wanting in the respect due to genius,
which he was quite capable of appreciating, but he
would have insisted that the eccentricities of a man
of genius, like those of any other man, should be
brought to the test of common sense. He seriously
disapproved of the philosophy, or rather of the way-
ward fancy, which puts might in the place of right :
it seemed to him to sacrifice history and to be sub-
versive of morality. His mind was characteristically
English. Though a Liberal in politics he was also Con-
servative ; and there was a certain class of new ideas
and exaggerated modes of expressing them, to which
he always entertained a strong repugnance. As he
says of himself in one of his reviews, " he had a
weakness for reading what he could understand."

He came up from the University of Glasgow to
Balliol College, Oxford, as a Snell Exhibitioner in the
year 1848, and he obtained a First Class in Easter
1853. To say the truth, he was an undergraduate
not easy to manage, though generally industrious and
always energetic. But he soon came right again, and
greater faults than his ever were would have been
more than counterbalanced by his attachment to his


friends, and his gratitude to any one who showed
him kindness. Both at the University and in after
life he had the faculty of drawing others round him
by his vivacity and the geniality of his tempera-
ment. They were anxious to know what he had to
say on any topic of the day ; for his thoughts were
his own, and not taken from others. Every one
was at ease with him ; he could not only talk him-
self, but he made his companions talk by his great
good humour and his quick appreciation of every-
thing that was said to him. He may at times
have been a little extravagant in his mirth ; and
where he was, there was certainly no danger of
dulness or ennui. Dr. Johnson has said that "every
man may be judged of by his laughter ; " and " tried
by this standard/ 7 his biographer adds, " he was
himself by no means contemptible." Those who
knew our friend will have no difficulty in applying
these words to him. Yet there was no time at
which he was not a hard worker, and in earnest
about many things. He had great political know-
ledge, and took a warm interest in several questions
of the day. The cause of Scottish Education, and
especially of University Education, owes much
to his writings and his influence. One of his
latest productions was an excellent paper which he
contributed as a Commissioner to the Report on
Scottish Hospitals, respecting the principles to be
applied to the alteration of trusts.

The last time I saw him was two years ago at
Loch Kennard, when we parted at a small station
on the Aberfeldy Railway. His two little girls,


children of seven and nine, went with us to the
station, where we arrived half-an-hour before the
train started. This gave occasion to a childish
remark made by one of them which greatly pleased
him. The elder child had said, " It was better to
be too early than too late." " A very sententious
observation/' he said to her in his peculiar manner.
But the younger one thought that " it was better to
be too late than too early, because if you loved your
friend very much you went back and saw him again."
He was delighted at this. Such trifles may seem
hardly worth repeating, but they have a value
when they are the last remembrances of a friend.
The death of his little son occurred in the following
year, and was the one great affliction of his other-
wise bright and happy life.

There are many who will miss that hearty wel-
come which he was in the habit of giving to his
friends, who sadly feel that they will not again
hear that well-known laugh, who have been im-
pressed by the never-flagging activity of his mind,
equally ready for an argument or a game of whist.
But there are few comparatively who knew what
force of character, and perseverance, and public
spirit, and strength of attachment, lay concealed
under that gay and joyous exterior.


BALLIOL COLLEGE, Sept. 1, 1876.


I have to thank the proprietors of the
for their kindness in allowing the republication
of the Articles which originally appeared in those

M. L.


October 1876.





THE DALRYMPLES, ... . . 90









PRINCIPAL KOBERTSON in his review of Scottish
history divides it into four periods the first
from the origin of the monarchy to the reign of
Kenneth n. ; the second from Kenneth's alleged con-
quest of the Picts to the death of Alexander in. ;
the third from the date of that calamity to the death
of James v. ; the last from thence to the union of the
crowns under James vi.

The first of these periods he considers a region of
"pure fable and conjecture," which "ought to be
totally neglected, or abandoned to the industry and
credulity of antiquaries." Truth, he thinks, " 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." With the third
period, however, authentic history begins ; contem-
porary records exist from which the manners of the
age can be gathered, and the characters of the actors
can be pictured : " here every Scotsman should not
read only, but study the history of his country."
While in the fourth period Scotland is truly described

1 " The History of Scotland ; from Agricola's Invasion to the Revolu-
tion of 1688." By John Hill Burton. 4 vols. Edinburgh and London :
1867. [Reprinted from the " Edinburgh Review," No. 257. July 1867.]


as so mixed up with the great changes then agitating
every nation in Europe, that without some knowledge
of Scottish history it is difficult to form a just appre-
ciation of the most momentous events, or the most
prominent figures of the sixteenth century.

A similar conception of Scottish history would
seem to have been present to the mind of Mr. Burton.
He appears to have fully adopted Kobertson's senti-
ment that " 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." Accordingly,
he has treated the first of the above periods almost
exclusively from the antiquarian point of view ; and,
however we may admire his " industry," we can trace
little of that "credulity" which Eobertson imputes to
the antiquarian race. In truth no Scottish historian
with whom we are acquainted has shown a franker
contempt for Scottish legend, or a greater indifference
to Scottish prejudice. Mr. Burton has applied those
principles of historical inquiry which Niebuhr first
laid down, and which Sir George Lewis made familiar
to us; and under this searching light the so-called
history of centuries has vanished away like the mist
on a Scottish hill. Not till the days of Malcolm
Canmore (1057-93) does he recognise the dawn of
true history. That prince is the first king of the
Scots who has anything like an individuality about
him who is " more than a name and a pair of dates
with a list of battles between." The controversy
which disturbed the dinner-table at Monkbarns moves
Mr. Burton but little. He shows, indeed, hardly less
contempt than the Antiquary himself for the list of
Pictish kings enumerated by Sir Arthur Wardour -
" that bead-roll of unbaptised jargon that would choke
the Devil!" and as to the Pictish people he seems


utterly indifferent as to what they were, where they
came from, or where they went to, doubtful in fact
whether they ever had any separate existence what-
ever from other savages, except so far as their use of
paint may be considered distinctive. Mr. Burton
may offend some antiquaries by this indifference ;
while, by his acceptance of the theory that Scotchmen
were originally Irishmen, he will certainly rouse the
wrath of thorough-going patriots, who outstrip even
antiquaries in vehemence and credulity. But we
pass for the present Mr. Burton's chapters on the
early races and the early Church of Scotland; they
are so full of vigour and originality that they deserve
to be considered apart, and we hope ere long to have
a suitable opportunity of reverting to them. Our
immediate concern at this time is with the historical
part of Mr. Burton's book properly so called.

The two points in Scottish history which deserve,
and will repay, careful study though doubtless in a
very different degree are the War of Independence
and the Reformation. These great struggles have an
interest altogether apart from and beyond the feuds
and forays of the Kingly period. In them we see
great principles at work ; in the one creating a nation,
in the other giving dignity and force to national life.
In such themes Mr. Burton is peculiarly at home, and
the light which he has thrown upon the real nature
of the War of Independence is perhaps the most valu-
able part of his labours. He introduces the subject
by a minute and careful statement of Edward's claims,
and of the pleadings before him for the prize of the
Scottish Crown. It was a barren prize to the suc-
cessful competitor ; it would have been the same to
any one who accepted it from Edward's award. That
sagacious prince had no intention that his feudal
superiority should be nominal. His best defence is


that his designs went far beyond this. And we can-
not but think it rash in English writers to peril
Edward's reputation on so narrow an issue as the
validity of this claim. It is hard to believe that he
troubled himself much about the rights of the matter :
valid or invalid, he saw in such a claim a ready and
powerful means to a great end, and he used it accord-
ingly. Indeed the whole question of the feudal
superiority of the kings of England over those of Scot-
land has been debated with a wealth of learning and
a warmth of temper utterly disproportionate to the
subject. No better illustration could be found of the
truth of Lord Macaulay's remark, that our historians
and antiquarians have been always prone to conduct
their researches in the spirit of partisans. While the
Treaty of Union was in dependence, this question had
a practical and important bearing. But now, when
no shadow of its former importance remains, the vehe-
mence with which the discussion has been carried on ex-
cites our wonder. As a rule the feeling -has been keenest
on the Scotch side though no Scottish writer has
reached the unseemly extravagance of the author of
the Greatest of the Plantagenets. Tytler denounces
" the absurd and unfounded claim of the feudal
superiority of England over this country." Hume,
more temperately, speaks of the claim as one " which
had hitherto lain in the deepest obscurity. " Lingard,
on the other side, holds that the kings of England
"for centuries claimed, and occasionally exercised,
the right of superiority." Sir Francis Palgrave re-
gards the documents collected by him from the Kecord
Office as conclusive on the question.

Mr. Lingard in support of his belief in the antiquity
of the claim goes far back into the Saxon times ; he
rests strongly, for example, on an inroad by Athelstan
into Scotland in the year 934, in the course of


which Constantine (a supposed Scotch king) "was
compelled to implore the clemency of the conqueror."
But raids of this sort, even if authentic, can never
be relied on as the foundation for a claim of feudal
superiority ; and nothing but raids of this sort can
be got from the Saxon times. Mr. Lingard's Saxon
authorities are therefore open to two somewhat serious
objections : the facts are by no means beyond dis-
pute ; and there was no law recognised by the parties
to which those facts, if authentic, could be applied.
This branch of the case is stated with perfect fair-
ness by Mr. Hume :

" The whole amount of Edward's authorities during the
Saxon period, when stripped of the bombast and inaccurate
style of the monkish historians, is, that the Scots had
sometimes been defeated by the English, had received
peace on disadvantageous terms, had made submissions to
the English Monarch, and had even perhaps fallen into
dependence on a power which was so much superior, and
which they had not at that time sufficient force to resist."

During the Norman period the case was different.
No one can dispute that after the Conquest there
existed, on the English side at least, a perfect compre-
hension of feudal law, and a perfect appreciation of
the consequences which the rendering of homage by
the Scottish kings might entail. From hence, there-
fore, the question turns more on the facts of the case-
that is, on the extent of homage rendered. The autho-
rities are all English ; some of them not beyond the
suspicion of having been garbled so as to bring out
with additional force what we may, without a great
lack of charity, suppose to have been the natural
leaning of the writers. Yet even with such materials
no clear case can be made out for England. No case
can be quoted in which the kings of Scotland did
homage expressly for the whole kingdom of Scotland.


Accordingly Scotch historians have contended that
in the early instances, of which the statement is
generally vague, the homage was rendered only for
the lands held south of the border a limitation which
in the later instances was carefully expressed. Mr.
Burton doubts this, "not believing that the grades
and ceremonies of homage were then (1073) so far
advanced as to admit of one of these complicated
transactions." We hardly think Mr. Burton's doubt
justified by his reason. Malcolm Canmore may have
been little skilled in the subtleties of the feudal law.
If so, then he was ignorant of what he was doing,
and the rendering of homage on his part is thus
deprived of any higher authority than the vague " sub-
missions" of the Anglo-Saxon times. But the Nor-
mans were quite familiar with such "complicated
transactions." The feudal system was then in its
zenith ; the relations of the kings of England to the
French Crown with respect to the lands they held in
France exemplified the very grades and ceremonies
to which Mr. Burton alludes. On their side, at least,
there could have been no difficulty in appreciating
such a limitation as that for which Scotch writers
contend. At all events, whatever may have been the
precise nature of the homage rendered by Malcolm, it
is certain that the raids into England never ceased
showing plainly that, instead of a vassal, William had
an independent and turbulent neighbour on his
northern frontier. Mr. Burton compares the early
relations between the Scotch and the Normans to the
relations between the Franks and the later Empire,
between the Norsemen and the Count of Paris. The
wild marauders are ready enough to do homage for
estates and honours given and received as bribes ; but
no homage would bind them to peace, the forays were
renewed as soon as ended.


" The whole story has a significant resemblance to the
attempts of the King of France to buy off and soothe the
Norsemen, whose chief professed all due homage in proper
form, yet, according to a common legend, took a sly oppor-
tunity, in his awkwardness in court fashions, to trip up
the paramount monarch in the course of the ceremony."
Vol. ii. p. 79.

Perhaps the treaty of Falaise (1174) first gave the
Scottish kings a clear idea of what the English
feudalists were driving at. By the terms of that
treaty Henry exacted from his captive William the
Lion an obligation for absolute homage for the whole
kingdom of Scotland. But it may be plausibly urged
that the excessive pains then taken to declare the
infeudation of Scotland, go far to show that the
matter was by no means clear. The terms of the
treaty indicate a victory gained, not an existing right
declared. The anxiety shown to wrest it from the
helplessness of a captive proves the value attached to
the point it conceded. And in 1189, Richard, for
the price of ten thousand marks, restored to Scotland
her independence, and withdrew the conditions which
his father had enforced by new deeds and owing to
the captivity of William (per novas chartas et
captionem suam). From henceforward no instance
can be given of general homage, however vague in
expression; and by the Treaty of Brigham in 1290,
the independence of Scotland was fully and fairly

After all, conceding to the advocates of the English
claims everything they contend for, what do they suc-
ceed in establishing ? Feudal superiority never implied
a right of conquest or absorption. Louis xi. was the
feudal superior of Philip the Bold : but did that pre-
vent the independence of Burgundy ? Still more idle
seems this famed discussion when we look at the


changes of dynasty which took place in England.
Let Athelstan and Canute have been as terrible and
as oppressive to the Scotch as they are alleged to have
been, what can the Conqueror claim in virtue of their
power ? He was not the legal inheritor of the rights
either of the Saxon or of the Dane. He conquered the
Saxon in England ; the Saxon in Scotland he did not
conquer. He tried it and failed : in the words of
the Chronicle, his invasion gave him "naught of
which he was the better." He may have extorted
homage from the king ; he established no right of
conquest over the people. And had such a thing been
in his power, he was not the man to leave the accom-
plishment of it in doubt.

It is surprising how readily modern writers have
allowed themselves to follow those litigious Normans
into the subtleties of which they were so fond. It is
not by such considerations that Edward should be
judged. He set before himself a great end ; if he
found the claim of superiority a useful means to that
end, he was justified in using it ; but it is frivolous to
determine the rectitude of his conduct by the validity
of that claim. Rather does he seem, in our judg-
ment, to lose in dignity by the tricks and shifty de-
vices and the unscrupulous use of the new science of
conveyancing to which he stooped in the endeavour
to make it good.

On the other hand we cannot but regard it as a
shallow patriotism which would load with undiscern-
ing vituperation the memory of the great Plantagenet.
That in the furtherance of his aims he showed but
little regard for the rights of others, and still less for
their prejudices, we readily admit ; but we cannot
hold him more unscrupulous in this respect than
many of the greatest statesmen of all ages. His was
no vulgar ambition. He was no conqueror for the


mere sake of conquest still less for the love of glory.
In his practical views he reminds us somewhat of the
later career of Frederic the Great ; certainly he stands
far above men influenced by such common motives as
those which stirred Henry v. and Louis xiv. In
the feeble reign of his grandfather the continental
possessions of England had been wrested from her ;
and he saw, with the foresight of a statesman, that
this loss would be a gain if England should thereby
be enabled to make the whole island at one with her-
self. He did not purpose, at least in the first instance,
harsh and cruel subjugation ; his nobler aim was the
gradual creation of a United Empire.

He failed, and his failure brought with it unmixed
disaster to the weaker kingdom. During the long
period of turbulence which followed on the death of
Bruce, Scotland was made hideous with all the
miseries, not dignified with the majesty of war. In-
deed the tumults which then raged did not deserve
the name of war ; they were not efforts to maintain
an independence seldom in serious jeopardy, they
were rather feuds between the nobles, or assaults by
the nobles on the Crown. The triumph of Bannock-
burn bore no better fruit than the uncontrolled license
of a rude aristocracy the fitful "efforts of the Crown
to restrain that license and the profound misery of
the people. When the reins of power had fallen from
the vigorous hands of the Regent Randolph, the
country became the scene of endless turmoil. The
reigns of the Roberts were marked by the murder of
the heir-apparent, the disaffection and treason of the
most powerful nobles. The first and ablest of the
Stuarts was assassinated. The second had to con-
tend with repeated rebellions. The third, who has
been recently represented as an amiable and accom-

Online LibraryHenry H LancasterEssays and reviews → online text (page 1 of 38)