History of Civilization in England, Vol. 3 of 3

History of Civilization in England, Vol. 3 of 3
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Henry Buckley. History of Civilization in England, Vol. 3 of 3

CHAPTER I. CONDITION OF SCOTLAND TO THE END OF THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY

CHAPTER II. CONDITION OF SCOTLAND IN THE FIFTEENTH AND SIXTEENTH CENTURIES

CHAPTER III. CONDITION OF SCOTLAND DURING THE SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES

CHAPTER IV. AN EXAMINATION OF THE SCOTCH INTELLECT DURING THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY

CHAPTER V. AN EXAMINATION OF THE SCOTCH INTELLECT DURING THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

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Early in the fifteenth century, the alliance between the Crown and the Church, and the determination of that alliance to overthrow the nobles, became manifest. Indications of this may be traced in the policy of Albany, who was Regent from 1406 to 1419, and who made it his principal object to encourage and strengthen the clergy.88 He also dealt the first great blow upon which any government had ventured against the aristocracy. Donald, who was one of the most powerful of the Scottish chieftains, and who, indeed, by the possession of the Western Isles, was almost an independent prince, had seized the earldom of Ross, which, if he could have retained, would have enabled him to set the Crown at defiance. Albany, backed by the Church, marched into his territories, in 1411, forced him to renounce the earldom, to make personal submission, and to give hostages for his future conduct.89 So vigorous a proceeding on the part of the executive, was extremely unusual in Scotland;90 and it was the first of a series of aggressions, which ended in the Crown obtaining for itself, not only Ross, but also the Western Isles.91 The policy inaugurated by Albany, was followed up with still greater energy by James I. In 1424, this bold and active prince procured an enactment, obliging many of the nobles to show their charters, in order that it might be ascertained what lands they held, which had formerly belonged to the Crown.92 And, to conciliate the affections of the clergy, he, in 1425, issued a commission, authorizing the Bishop of Saint Andrews to restore to the Church whatever had been alienated from it; while he at the same time directed that the justiciaries should assist in enforcing execution of the decree.93 This occurred in June; and what shows that it was part of a general scheme is, that in the preceding spring, the king suddenly arrested, in the parliament assembled at Perth, upwards of twenty of the principal nobles, put four of them to death, and confiscated several of their estates.94 Two years afterwards, he, with equal perfidy, summoned the Highland chiefs to meet him at Inverness, laid hands on them also, executed three, and imprisoned more than forty, in different parts of the kingdom.95

By these measures, and by supporting the Church with the same zeal that he attacked the nobles, the king thought to reverse the order of affairs hitherto established, and to secure the supremacy of the throne over the aristocracy.96 But herein, he overrated his own power. Like nearly all politicians, he exaggerated the value of political remedies. The legislator and the magistrate may, for a moment, palliate an evil; they can never work a cure. General mischiefs depend upon general causes, and these are beyond their art. The symptoms of the disease they can touch, while the disease itself baffles their efforts, and is too often exasperated by their treatment. In Scotland, the power of the nobles was a cruel malady, which preyed on the vitals of the nation; but it had long been preparing; it was a chronic disorder; and, having worked into the general habit, it might be removed by time, it could never be diminished by violence. On the contrary, in this, as in all matters, whenever politicians attempt great good, they invariably inflict great harm. Over-action on one side produces reaction on the other, and the balance of the fabric is disturbed. By the shock of conflicting interests, the scheme of life is made insecure. New animosities are kindled, old ones are embittered, and the natural jar and discordance are aggravated, simply because the rulers of mankind cannot be brought to understand, that, in dealing with a great country, they have to do with an organization so subtle, so extremely complex, and withal so obscure, as to make it highly probable, that whatever they alter in it, they will alter wrongly, and that while their efforts to protect or to strengthen its particular parts are extremely hazardous, it does undoubtedly possess within itself a capacity of repairing its injuries, and that to bring such capacity into play, there is merely required that time and freedom which the interference of powerful men too often prevents it from enjoying.

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Nine days after Knox entered Scotland, the first blow was struck. On the 11th of May 1559, he preached in Perth. After the sermon, a tumult arose, and the people plundered the churches and pulled down the monasteries.183 The queen-regent, hastily assembling troops, marched towards the town. But the nobles were on the alert. The Earl of Glencairn joined the congregation with two thousand five hundred men; and a treaty was concluded, by which both sides agreed to disarm, on condition that no one should be punished for what had already happened.184 Such, however, was the state of the public mind, that peace was impossible. In a few days, war again broke out; and this time the result was more decisive. The Lords of the Congregation mustered in great force. Perth, Stirling, and Linlithgow, fell into their hands. The queen-regent retreated before them. She evacuated Edinburgh; and, on the 29th of June, the Protestants entered the capital in triumph.185

All this was done in seven weeks from the breaking out of the first riot. Both parties were now willing to negotiate, with the view of gaining time; the queen-regent expecting aid from France, the Lords expecting it from England.186 But the proceedings of Elizabeth being tardy, the Protestants, after waiting for some months, determined to strike a decisive blow before the reinforcements arrived. In October, the principal peers, headed by the Duke of Chastelherault, the Earl of Arran, the Earl of Argyle, and the Earl of Glencairn, assembled at Edinburgh. A great meeting was held, of which Lord Ruthven was appointed president, and in which the queen-regent was solemnly suspended from the government, on the ground that she was opposed to ‘the glory of God, to the liberty of the realm, and to the welfare of the nobles.’187

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