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both points. The tragic end is defensible on many
grounds, but its defensibility seems to us the exact
measure of the guilt of the earlier policy. The neces-
sity for the execution is the deepest condemnation of
the long captivity. But, irrespective of this considera-
tion, it is vain to dispute that Mary's detention in
England was in violation of all public or municipal
law. Mr. Hallam says, in his calm, impartial style,
which in this controversy gives the reader such a sense
of relief, that " policy was supposed, as frequently
happens, to indicate a measure absolutely repugnant
to justice, that of detaining her in perpetual custody.
Whether this policy had no other fault than its want
of justice may reasonably be called in question." We
cannot, however, concur with Mr. Hallam in his fur-
ther remark, that " to have restored her by force of
arms, or by a mediation which would certainly have
been effectual, to the throne which she had compul-
sorily abdicated, was the most generous, and would


perhaps have turned out the most judicious proceed-
ing." This course, doubtless the most generous, might
have proved the most judicious, but for the incurable
duplicity of Mary and her supporters. Had they
been only moderately honest, or had they succeeded
in concealing their dishonesty ! Their promises in-
deed were fair, but there was no thought of keeping
them. Had Mary been restored, the old game would
have been played over again the revival of Popery,
the assaults on Elizabeth's throne. That this would
have been so was proved to the Ministers of Elizabeth
under the hands of the plotters themselves. There-
fore she could say with truth, that " to set this person
at liberty and restore her to her throne would be an
act of dangerous folly which no indifferent person
should in conscience require." The wisest course, as
it seems to us, would have been the impartial neutral-
ity of sending her to France. There the hatred of the
Queen-mother would have kept her powerless and
harmless. Had Elizabeth committed Mary to the
keeping of Catherine de Medicis, and recognised
James as her successor on the throne of England, her
reign would have been undisturbed by many a danger,
and her memory would be without its deepest stain.
The course she took was at once the least honourable
and the most perilous. Mary, in England, was the
centre of all mischief. The long injury of her impri-
sonment made the world forget her crimes : the old
schemes were renewed ; to enthusiastic natures any
plot became holy which had for its object the triumph
of the true faith and the restoration of freedom to
the captive. Elizabeth owed her safety solely to the
jealousies between France and Spain. Not only were
these powers unable to co-operate even for the humi-
liation of England, neither could resist the temptation
of thwarting any promising plan devised by the other.


While the weakness and prejudices of Elizabeth
were thus injurious to herself, they brought bitter
disaster upon Scotland. The Queen's party revived :
Murray, the one man able to control Scotland, was
assassinated ; the Catholic nobles, believing in the
restoration of Mary, took heart ; the leading Protes-
tants, dazzled by the same mirage, deserted the good
cause. But what changed Maitland of Lethington,
and, through him, Grange, into the most zealous of
queensmen, has never, perhaps, been satisfactorily
explained. Mr. Froude's theory is that Maitland was
deluded by the vain hope of winning for Mary the
English crown. Mr. Burton has no particular theory
about the matter ; and, in default of one, falls back
upon an illustration. " Lethington took his inspira-
tion from the lamp. Among the common politicians
of the day he was like an alchymist acquainted with
formidable chemical combinations unknown to others,
and not ' so well at his own command but that the
result was often explosive and disastrous." Besides
being led away by his own over- subtle fancies, Mait-
land mistook the position and misread the character
of Elizabeth. Her weakness and fickleness, and the
duplicity which is the consequence of weakness and
fickleness, were past even his finding out. Maitland,
Argyll, and Grange were all the victims of her hesi-
tation, or the dupes of her cunning.

The King's party, and with it the cause of the
Reformation, was for a time in evil case. Morton
upheld it alone. He was the strength of the party,
and the true ruler of Scotland, while power was
nominally intrusted to the feeble hands of Lennox
and Mar. History has done but scant justice to this
man. Mr. Froude somewhere calls him "an un-
principled scoundrel ; " and even the cooler judgment
of Mr. Burton seems warped against him. We cannot


concur in this severity of condemnation. Unprin-
cipled, in private life, Morton was. Unhappy in his
marriage, he was a libertine in his amours. But
profligacy was a small matter in days of universal
profligacy ; that Morton had in common with many
who were without his excuse. Unprincipled in public
life he was not. True, his principles were purely
political ; for the religious interests at stake he cared
as little perhaps as Lethington himself. But such as
they were he stuck to them ; he chose them early, he
adhered to them always, he carried them to final
triumph, and he was put to death because of them.
The nature of the man was hard and stern ; he was
feared and obeyed, but never loved, even by those of
his own party. In the crisis of his fate, when done to
death by the wretched courtiers of James, the Pres-
byterians whom he had saved would not move on his
behalf. But now at least we may estimate fairly the
merits of a statesman, undisturbed by doubts as to the
piety of his motives and the purity of his life. His
courage, vigour, and tenacity of purpose compel our
respect ; his fidelity to his party and his services to
freedom demand our gratitude. Abandoned by his
old allies, Morton found support in an unlooked-for
quarter. For the second time in Scotland's story the
middle class arose and saved their country. As we
pointed out in our notice of Mr. Burton's former
volumes, it was this class which brought the War of
Independence to a successful issue. During the kingly
period they disappear from the stage : they were
exhausted with misery, and the wretched turmoils
which then desolated the land were nothing to them.
But now they were roused by stimulants of terrible
potency. The pure religion which they had learned
to cherish was to be torn from them ; a Popish
adulteress was again to reign ; the Spaniards, led by


the dreaded Alva, were about to land on their shores ;
and in such straits their natural leaders were deserting
them. But the more desperate the danger the higher
swelled the national spirit. And the preaching of
Knox, old though he was, and broken, and unable
to reach the pulpit without aid, could yet stir the
heart of Scotland " like ten thousand trumpets."
Blamed for his attacks on Mary, he thus vindicates
his speech : " That I have called her ane obstinate
idolatrice, ane that consented to the murther of her
awn husband, and ane that has committed whoredom
and villanous adultery, I gladly grant and never
minds to deny ; but railing and sedition they are
never able to prove in me, till they first compel Isaiah,
Jeremiah, Ezekiel, , St. Paul, and others, to recant, of
whom I have learned plainly and boldly to call
wickedness by its own terms a fig a fig, and a spade
a spade." The nation was roused by his denunciations ;
it was he who at this supreme crisis turned to foolish-
ness the wisdom of Lethington and the chivalry of
Grange, and called to life the Commons of Scotland ;
and the Commons of Scotland saved the liberties and
religion of their own country, and in so doing saved
also the liberties and religion of England.

This rise of the Commons is the one attractive
feature in that cruel time. Scotland became the
theatre of a desolating civil war. She had known many
miseries of strife and rebellion; but never anything
like this. No quarter was given on either side. No
sex or age was spared women and children were
tossed living into their burning houses. But the
issue, failing the arrival of Alva, was never doubtful.
Knox foresaw surely " of the castle of Edinburgh,
that it should rise like a sandglass, and spew out the
captain with shame."

Two events hurried on the end the massacre of


St. Bartholomew and the conspiracy of Eidolfi. The
great crime of the court of Paris produced more im-
mediate and more important effects in Scotland than
in any other country. The tendency then gaining
ground among the Commons towards the sternest
forms of Presbyterianism was quickened by sympathy
with the Huguenots, from whom that Presbyterianism
had been derived. The nation was transported with
a rage and horror before which even the Catholic
nobles quailed. Then came the detection of Eidolfi,
revealing to Elizabeth something of her danger, laying
bare before Cecil the Catholic plottings and the com-
plicity of Lethington. The title of James was
recognised. The Pacification of Perth followed ; and
there remained only the defenders of the castle of
Edinburgh fighting with the desperate fidelity of
renegades. Even at the last Elizabeth hesitated ; but
Morton unlike Lennox and Mar would not be
trifled with. Accordingly, English cannon were sent
round to Leith ; the castle fell, and there was peace*
in the land.

This period of civil war possesses, as we have said,
a peculiar interest and importance, because then the
Scottish middle class made itself felt as a power in
the country, and won a position which it never after-
wards lost. It possesses, too, an interest of a different
kind in that, before the issue was determined, the
man who had called that middle class into political
existence closed, not unworthily, his eventful career.
The last days of Knox present a noble picture of
faithfulness and courage enduring to the end. Worn
with age ; beset with dangers ; his life threatened by
Grange himself, the trusted friend of old days ;
counselled to silence by timid allies ; deserted even
by his ecclesiastical brethren ; he would not be slack
in the cause of his country and his God. Driven from


Edinburgh, his voice woke the land from distant St.
Andrews; but his work was done, and he returned
to Edinburgh to die. His last act on earth was one
of mercy. He sent David Lindsay, a minister, to the
castle, beseeching the defenders to give rest to the
country, and to save themselves from inevitable
destruction. Grange was moved by such a message
from one whom he had loved and honoured ; it drew
but a scurril j est from the harder Lethington. " Well,"
said the dying man, when the failure of his errand
was reported to him, " I have been earnest with my
God anent they twa men. For the one, I am sorry
that sa should befall him ; yet God assures me there
is mercy for his soul. For the other, I have na
warrant that ever he shall be well."

For all this, as indeed for the whole life of Knox,
Mr. Burton, we regret to state, has no fitter words
than " egotism," and " rancour," and " arrogance."
Throughout his history he is curiously unjust to the
great Eeformer. To some extent this is intelligible.
Himself utterly without enthusiasm, Mr. Burton can-
not discern the merits, still less make allowance for
the failings, of noble and enthusiastic natures. But
it is less easy to understand why Mr. Burton should
have taken so little pains to show in their true light
the undoubted services rendered by Knox to his
country to education, for example; to civil, if not
to religious, liberty. He writes of him throughout
with a grudge and reserve of praise which seems, to
spring from a genuine inability to estimate fairly the
position and character of the man. The reality of
Knox's character has, we think, been obscured hardly
less by the zeal of friends than by the malignity of
enemies. To us his temperament seems to have been
the very reverse of that of a fanatic. It was genial,
liberal, kindly. True, he Was enthusiastic zealous


even to slaying. He was intolerant, too, of Popery
and tyranny ; and fortunately for him and for us,
Popery and tyranny were then combined, at least in
Scotland, with foolishness and crime. But enthusiasm
is not fanaticism : intolerance does not always spring
from mere bigotry. The cause of Protestantism and
freedom against Mary, Philip, Alva, and the Pope,
was a cause which men had to fight hard for ; and
which, failing success, they would have had to die
for. In such a struggle " enlightened principles " of
any kind are not likely to find place. Intolerance is
the inevitable vice of such a time ; and Knox's in-
tolerance took its vehemence from a fiery tempera-
ment, heated by his keen perception of the dangers to
which truth and freedom were then exposed. Two
great political evils throw their shadow over all Scot-
tish history fierceness of faction and want of public
spirit. Knox was fierce enough, and, in a sense,
factious ; but he was animated by an unselfish zeal
for the public good, shared in by few Scotchmen of his
own or any other time. Our readers, we are sure,
will forgive us if we recall to their recollection Mr.
Froude's estimate of the greatest of Scotchmen :

" The time has come when English history may do justice
to one but for whom the Eeformation would have been over-
thrown among ourselves ; for the spirit which Knox created
saved Scotland; and if Scotland had been Catholic again,
neither the wisdom of Elizabeth's ministers, nor the teaching
of her bishops, nor her own chicaneries, would have preserved
England from revolution. His was the voice which taught
the peasant of the Lothians that he was a free man, the
equal in the sight of God with the proudest peer or prelate
that had trampled on his forefathers. He was the one anta-
gonist whom Mary Stuart could not soften nor Maitland
deceive; he it was that raised the poor Commons of his
country into a stern and rugged people, who might be hard,
narrow, superstitious, and fanatical ; but who, nevertheless,


were men whom neither king, noble, nor priest could force
again to submit to tyranny. And his reward has been the
ingratitude of those who should most have done honour to
his memory. . . . Even his very bones have been flung out
of their resting-place, or none can tell where they are laid ;
and yet but for him Mary Stuart would have bent Scotland
to her purpose, and Scotland would have been the lever with
which France and Spain would have worked on England.
But for Knox and Burghley those two, but not one without
the other Elizabeth would have been flung from off her
throne, or have gone back into the Egypt to which she was
too often casting wistful eyes." 1

With the overthrow of the Queen's party ends the
interest of Scotch secular history until the union of
the crowns. There remains much intrigue and tur-
moil raids of Kuthven, Gowrie plots, and frequent
outbreaks of feudal savagery ; but little to amuse and
nothing to instruct. The character of James arrests
attention for a moment in delineating which, Mr.
Burton has laboured with evident pains and remark-
able success. He displayed from the first all those
unkingly qualities which afterwards excited the indig-
nation and contempt of England. We remark the
same timidity, the same feeble obstinacy, the same
shallow deceit which lie thought kingcraft, the same
love of favourites, the same strange susceptibility to
the attractions of male beauty. Aubigne*, Arran, and
Gray were the forerunners of Carr and Villiers. Mr.
Burton accounts for this last peculiarity by the follow-
ing ingenious theory :

"The king, just growing into manhood, was acquiring
that offensive ugliness which even court painters could not
help, revealing if they produced what could be recognised as
a portrait. The ugliness was offensive, because it had none
of those qualities which give an interest, and sometimes
even a dignity, to ugly faces as intellect, firmness, or even

1 History, vol. x. pp. 456, 457.


sternness. But he delighted in having handsome men about
him, and good looks were a sure passport to his favour.
This weakness seems to have come of the same peculiarity
of nature, unaccountable on any reasoning from cause and
effect, which makes unseemly people take delight in the fine
clothing and brilliant jewellery which only draw attention
to their defects." Vol. v. p. 497.

We have no inclination to dwell on those dreary
times, and gladly turn to a more inviting theme the
progress of the Scottish Eeformation, and the develop-
ment of Scottish Presbyterianism. It is in this branch
of his subject that Mr. Burton has achieved his
greatest success. Here his impartiality, amounting
almost to indifference, stands him in good stead. For
when we come to deal with the struggles, in the
seventeenth century, between Presbyterianism and
Episcopacy, we tread on embers beneath which the
fires are yet living. The passions of men are always
excited by religious controversy ; and few contro-
versies have raged more furiously or for a victory
more trivial than the rival claims of Episcopalians and
Presbyterians to be recognised as the true Church of
the Scottish Eeformation. The respective disputants
have, of course, looked at one side of the shield only.
Mr. Burton's even-handed justice will be distasteful
to both, in exact proportion as it will be prized by
the lover of historical truth. It is not too much to
say that the best ecclesiastical history of Scotland yet
written is to be found in Mr. Burton's pages.

Mr. Froude's favourite source of historical know-
ledge, the Statute-book, does not greatly aid us towards
a true understanding of this matter. Popery was
overthrown in 1560, and it was thought wise to con-
firm this great work in 1567. After the latter date
a ritual seems to have prevailed, carefully cleared of
any leanings towards Popish doctrine, certain musical


observances, and other things which subsequently came
to be regarded as abominations, such as the sponsors
in the Anglican rite of baptism. These Reformation
Acts, if we may so call them, made no special attack
on the Episcopal hierarchy. On the contrary, the
Estates expressly refused their approval to the
Huguenot system, in the shape of the First Book of
Discipline ; and, in a statute passed for the suppres-
sion of Popery in 1572, it is declared that the Kirk
is to act through " lawful archbishops, bishops, super-
intendents, and ministers and readers." But in 1580
a different spirit appears. In the Assembly of that
year " the office of ane bishop" is declared to have
" no sure warrant, authority, or good ground out of
the Scripture of God, but to be brought in by folly
and corruption ;" and is therefore abolished. In 1592
we find the Estates establishing the Presbyterian
polity in language unequivocal and distinct ; in 1597
we find them recognising " bishops, abbots, and other
prelates ;" in 1606 they formally restore the order of
bishops "to their ancient and accustomed honours,
dignities, prerogatives, privileges, livings, lands, etc. ;"
in 1640 they overthrew the whole Episcopal hierarchy,
and declared the Covenant the law of the land. All
this is not a little perplexing ; but if, turning from
the dry bones of statutes, we study the changeful
life of Scotland during that epoch, we shall find the
history of her Church become intelligible. The high-
born Keformers of the early period cared little for the
spiritual aspects of the movement which they led.
What they really valued, what made the new faith
truly precious in their sight, was their possession of
the Church lands. "If they can have the kirk lands,"
wrote Knox of them, " to be annexed to their houses,
they appear to take no more care of the instruction of
the ignorant, and of the feeding of the flock of Jesus


Christ, than ever did the Papists whom we have con-
demned, and yet are worse ourselves in that behalf."
Certainly they had no special aversion to prelates or
prayer-books. Knox himself was no hater of Episco-
pacy. On the contrary, he dealt with the proper
ordering of the office of a bishop as a matter of im-
portance in the economy of the Church. Had the
nobles been steadfast to Protestantism, and gone
along with his scheme of education, the bishops would
have moved him little. At the very first, in 1559-60,
had the Queen Eegent shown good faith, and not
attempted to put down the new religion with French
money and French troops, the Keformation, guided
by moderate men, might have assumed a different
character. Mary bettered her instruction. The re-
sult was twofold : Scotland was thrown, politically,
into the arms of England ; a more fiery zeal was
breathed into the new Dissent. Knox was driven to
extremes by the defection or indifference of the Pro-
testant leaders, by their active opposition to his
scheme of education, and by the reaction in favour
of Mary and Popery. Thus the defence of freedom
and religion fell into the hands of the commonalty ;
and from five years of civil war there emerged a stern
creed and a democratic Church. The horrors of St.
Bartholomew, the terror of the Armada, worked in
the same direction ; as did also the preference for
Episcopacy early evinced by James. From all which
causes it came about that, at the union of the crowns,
the current of national feeling set steadily towards
democratic Presbyterianism, with, it may be, a reac-
tionary eddy here and there at the side, but without
effect on the main flow of the stream. We have
passed from the comparative liberality of Knox to
the harder and narrower, if more logical, doctrine of


When James succeeded to his great inheritance, an
English courtier, with the natural curiosity of one
receiving a new master, desired to learn the king's
disposition from a Scottish peer. " Saw ye ever,"
was the reply of the noble humourist, " saw ye ever a
jack ape ? Because if I hold him in my hands, I can
make him bite you ; if you hold him in yours, you
can make him bite me." James was no sooner in
English hands than he began to bite Scotland, and
especially the Scottish Church. He hated, with a
manifold hatred, both the Presbyterian system and
the Presbyterian clergy. The Episcopal polity ad-
apted itself more readily to the political theories of
Filmer; the blasphemous adulation of English pre-
lates was more grateful to royal ears than the rude
rebukes of Melville. The Hampton Court Confer-
ence, unimportant in its issues, revealed the temper
and purposes of the king. Certain of the clergy
were convicted of high treason for upholding the
independence of ecclesiastical assemblies ; the two
Melvilles, and six of the brethren, who had been
tempted to London by specious promises of patient
hearing and fair judgment, were banished or confined
to particular localities in Scotland, because they
would not acquiesce in " Papist ceremonies, and an
unchristian hierarchy." Finally, Episcopacy was for-
mally restored in 1606. But it was easier to create
bishops than to endow them ; the nobles refused to
relinquish the spoils of the Church ; it was found
impossible to restore to holy uses even the fragment
of the old ecclesiastical wealth which had been vested
in the Crown by the Act of Annexation. Mr. Burton
gives an amusing account of the piteous and repeated
wailings of the new bishops on the score of their
poverty. But it was all in vain. The one fact
which " we have to carry out of the whole selfish and


cunning struggle is the determined pertinacity of the
hold maintained by powerful men in Scotland over
the revenues of the Old Church." These men were
the worthy predecessors of the same class which sup-
ports Episcopacy in Scotland in such a niggardly
fashion now.

James's next move was more decided. The cele-
brated Five Articles were passed in a packed Assembly
held at Perth in the year 1618. They were ratified
by the Estates in 1621, and when the Commissioner
rose to touch them with the sceptre, according to the
ancient fashion of the realm, the displeasure of Heaven
was manifested by lightnings and thunders, and " an

Online LibraryHenry H LancasterEssays and reviews → online text (page 5 of 38)