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Sketches of The Character, Manners, and Present State of the Highlanders of Scotland


Appendix

B, Page 16. Ancient League between France and Scotland

Tradition states, that, in honour of this ancient alliance, and in compliment to the Lilies of France, one of the succeeding Kings of Scotland surmounted the lion on his arms with the double tressure, which has, ever since, continued to be the arms of Scotland. In consequence of a requisition from Charles VII. of France, founded, as it is said, on this treaty, the Duke of Albany, Regent of Scotland, in the year 1419, sent his son, John Stewart, Earl of Buchan, with 7,000 men, to assist him in his wars against the English. The Ear of Buchan, as a reward for the eminent service rendered by his army, was made Constable of France, which is the only instance of a foreigner receiving this distinction.

The late Lord Hailes was so remarkable for his accuracy and precision, that, on one occasion, it is said, he proposed to reject a law-paper, because the word justice was improperly spelt, the last letter having been omitted. This severity of criticism he carried through all his labours. In his remarks on the History of Scotland, he doubts the reality of this alliance, because it has been variously related by authors, and particularly by Hector Boece, a Scotch historian, (of a character very different from that of the accurate, honourable, and learned judge,) who indulges himself in detailing many improbable and fabulous events. Though doubts may reasonably be entertained concerning the authenticity of this alliance, it is evident that our ancient historians and chroniclers, when they thought it probable that such a treaty had really existed, must have believed that the Alpine kings had numerous and warlike subjects ; and hence we may conjecture, that the country was able to support a numerous population, which has been denied by modern economists. With regard to the credit due to traditions, it may be observed, that, in the absence of written. documents, they may be so unvarying in their tenor, and so confirmed by collateral circumstances, as to be entitled to a considerable degree of importance. Traditions, thus preserved and confirmed, are certainly preferable to the mere conjectures and hypotheses of modern authors, which are not so much founded on any authentic documents, as on the absence of them, and which often vary with the peculiar opinions and preconceived notions of each individual specialist. The want of written proof may, in many cases, be a good legal objection; but are we warranted, merely from the absence of proof to the contrary, in refusing all credit to what has, for ages, been handed down as the firm belief of our ancestors? These observations I have thought it necessary to offer, as I shall have occasion to refer to many traditions, for which I have neither written nor printed proofs, but which I have every reason to believe are founded on facts, although there may be some little difference in the relation,ónot more, perhaps, than we have met with in the accounts given of the same work by the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews.

There is hardly any point of history, far less tradition, in which all men are agreed. Recent as the events are, we have contradictory accounts of the Peninsular campaigns, and of the battle of Waterloo. When, therefore, we every day hear discordant reports and versions of events that occurred within our own memory, can it be matter of surprise that the affairs of remote ages should be variously related, and can it furnish good grounds for rejecting the whole as fabulous? Many parts of our own national history, which we receive with implicit credence, will not perhaps bear that strictness of criticism which calls for present and written proofs. In the same manner, therefore, as I believe that there was a great and overwhelming victory gained at Waterloo, notwithstanding the discrepancy of minute details, so I am likewise willing to give credit to many parts of our traditional story, when these are not opposed to the principles of reason, and well-authenticated facts.

Whatever may be thought of the treaty with Charlemagne, the connexion between France and Scotland must be allowed to be of high antiquity, since it is noticed as the "Ancient League,'' as far back as the reigns of Baliol, Bruce, and Robert the first of the Stewarts, upwards of five hundred years ago. Now, as it is not disputed, that an amicable communication subsisted thus early, those who disbelieve the alliance between Charlemagne and Achaius ought to fix the period of the commencement of that friendly intercourse which continued uninterrupted till the Kings of Scotland removed to England, and united the rival kingdoms under one Crown. It should also be stated how far back the League must have extended, to have entitled it to the term of "Ancient" bestowed on it in the days of John Baliol, who was declared King of Scotland in the year 1292.


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