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The Scottish Nation

The work which is now presented to the world assumes, by its comprehensively national title, that the various and diversified information it contains is so illustrative of the Scottish nation, and of the origin and constitution of modern Scottish society, as to justify the adoption for it of a designation so conspicuous. Of any other country, it is true, an account of its surnames, families, and honours, would cast little or no light over the constitution of the society existing therein. Such au account would probably tell next to nothing of the earlier races out of which society was formed, because, in the case of any other nation, whatever might elsewhere be found to illustrate that part of its history, few indications in the names now borne by individuals or families, or in its titles of honour, will be found to mark the tribes or institutions whence they sprung, or to be otherwise identified with the commencement of its national unity. This is a result to be found in Scotland alone; not uniformly, indeed, nor always without admixture of doubt, but certainly in a greater degree than in any other kingdom or state.

      Modern Scottish society, and Scottish nationality in its proper sense, may be said to have come into existence together. Hereditary monarchy, hereditary surnames, families, and honours, hitherto unknown among its peoples, wore their common instruments for consolidation, for conservation, and for progress. To the Cumbrian, the Pict, the Scot, Norwegian, Dane, or Saxon, who, at various times and in various degrees, were spread over its soil, those distinctions were exceptional and comparatively unknown.

      In the early part of the twelfth century, the greater part of the country now constituting Scotland was in a state little better than that of chaos, and worse than that of anarchy. A contemporary document of a solemn character describes the southern portion (and it may be held as equally true of the northern) as having till then been occupied rather than inhabited “by diverse tribes of diverse nations coming from diverse parts; of dissimilar language, features, and modes of living, not easily able to hold converse among themselves, practically Pagans rather than Christians, living more like irrational animals than as worthy of the name of a people,” [Diversae tribus, diversarum nacionum, ex diversis partibus affluentes, regionem prefatum habitaverunt. Sed dispari gente et dissimuli lingua, et varia more viventes, haut facile (inter) sese consencientes, gentilitatem potius quam fidei cultum tenuerunt. Quos infelices et damnate habitacionis, habitatores, more pecudum irrationabiliter degentes, dignatus est Dominus, ... visitare. —Inquisition by David Prince of Cumbria (circa 1116).] and even deducting from this picture for the exaggerations of a Churchman, enough remains to confirm the foregoing remark. The arrival of a new people of polished manners, military discipline, and Christian zeal by giving new institutions and, for a time, a new language to this incongruous mass, created a nation and a nationality, yet without a so-called revolution or even a change of dynasty. The new race, whose presence was so beneficially felt in Scotland, came through England, yet were not of it. They were the Normans, -- a people of the same original stock as many of the tribes above referred to, but refined and instructed by familiarity with the institutions of the South.

      This new order of things, however, might have attained to no permanence, or even if permanent, to no historic significance--- at least in the sense which our title assumes---had not the silent but ceaseless immigration of the new race continued without interruption for nearly two centuries, in the course of which they identified their fortunes with those of a dynasty which, although sprung from an elder settlement of the population, was led by sympathy, education, and the necessities of their position, to cherish, enrich, and loan upon this new people for the preservation of their crown and prerogatives, and to cement their union by numerous family alliances. A revolution, which placed first one and then another family of the new race upon the throne of Scotland, completed the solidarity of the social union of races in Scotland, while it prevented fresh admixtures of foreign blood; and lastly and chiefly the practice of bestowing hereditary surnames and honours, and of holding all lands from the Crown, which obtained generally throughout this period, and found a permanent and faithful record in charters and other public deeds, many of which are still in existence, insured to Scotland the integrity and continuity of its social annals.

      The surnames traceable to immigrant Norman chiefs, or to the lands bestowed upon their retainers, constitute by far the greater portion of those peculiar and pertaining to vast numbers of individuals forming modern Scottish society. Under those derived from lands, not a few Danish and Norwegian names are to be found, which, in like manner as those of Celtic and Norman origin referring to personal or local distinctives, are to be recognised by their composition; yet, while of this latter class, even in the remote North we find in the names Frazer, Grant, Cameron, and others, undeniable proofs, notwithstanding their present use of the Celtic tongue, of a Norman or French immigration, the composition of the southern population is singularly manifested when the distinctive of an individual of the more ancient lineage is there, as in the case of a Fleming or an Ingles, expressed by the simple name of Scott. An account of the origin or of the original holders of these surnames of the forefathers of the present Scottish people, cannot fail to be highly interesting to all classes at the present day.

      But, a mere explanation of the origin of surnames alone would lack completeness unless accompanied with some account of the families by which they were borne, --- of the distribution of those families over the country,--- of their subdivision into new families,--- and of the distinguished individuals who sustained their reputation and promoted their influence: and such an account it is one of the objects of this Work to supply. ‘The Scottish Nation’ professes to present the succession, the affiliations and alliances, and the leading incidents in the history of the families whose surnames have obtained distinction and influence through Scotland since the reign of Malcolm Canmore.

      The ancient baronies of Scotland, associated as they were with hereditary jurisdictions only short of regal, had all a significancy in that country unequalled in any others where the feudal regime obtained. The holders of these honours were regarded as heads of its name as well as of their vassals; and to promote the honour of the one as well as the welfare of the other was their business and their strength. An account of these honours is an account of the territorial supremacy of a name and of a family, among the members of which the lands under the jurisdiction of their heads were in course of time parcelled out.

      A history of Scottish titles is a necessary supplement to that of families, and a key to many of the social and political incidents in that kingdom as well as in the history and fortunes of its families. Such a history forms, therefore, another and it is hoped a valuable topic of the present Work.

      Immeasurably beyond all these social facts in importance, although greatly illustrated by the lights they furnish, the biographies of its distinguished natives become, when properly treated, the topic which illustrates and shows forth in its strength and peculiarities ‘The Scottish Nation.’ The poorest country in Europe, occupied by a hardy race trained to military exercises, struggling for centuries to maintain their national independence, and ever contending for mastery amongst themselves, Scotland has beheld her sons loving and honouring the country that gave them birth with a high and pure patriotism; and clinging to each other with a proverbial partiality, yet not alone on account of their common relationship, but also for those qualities of endurance, energy, and intelligence which their common struggles and even social feuds drew forth and incorporated as it were with the national character. At a comparatively early period she sent forth many of her sons to obtain distinction and honours in other lands; and when more peaceful times had arrived and milder institutions obtained, she saw them launch into the arts of civil life, for which their hereditary qualities, animated by the lessons of a simple but sincere piety, had well prepared them, and assert for themselves a front rank among the leaders of mind and intellect in Europe, in numbers altogether unexplained in the social development of other nations. Of such men is Scotland’s pride and glory, and their lives and deeds constitute the truest account of the Scottish nation.

      In its general biography the present work embraces a wider range than is contemplated in any of those specially devoted to that subject, comprising many names not to be met with in history, yet of men whose skill, genius, or labours have added to the comfort, the knowledge, or been borne down by undeserved obliqueness have been restored to their proper position; while others, upheld by misstatement or exaggeration at an undue elevation, have been placed on a lower pedestal. In all cases the truth has been stated, without reference to party feelings or sectarian misrepresentations.

      In the department of literature great attention has been bestowed upon the articles relating to men distinguished by their writings. By appending the titles and dates of their works, and sometimes when these were numerous, classifying the subjects treated of, easy reference is combined with great economy of space. In a word, as respects the productions of its literary characters, ‘The Scottish Nation’ becomes as it were a Bibliotheca Scotia corrected and brought down to the present day.

      For a work of this character it is evident that an Alphabetical arrangement, or what is generally although incorrectly known as the Dictionary form, is the only one compatible with clearness, order, and facility of reference, and accordingly such a form has been adopted, with some peculiarities which it is hoped will be found to improve it in these respects. In all other works of this kind, when several articles or parties of the same name came to be described, the sub-alphabetical order, or that of the initial letters has obtained. In the case of biographies, however, on this principle, the ancestor is placed often at a distance from and not unfrequently long after his descendants. Throughout long lists of similar surnames the strictly alphabetical arrangement mixes up epochs, and mars all attempts to present the connection which distinguished individuals bearing them had to one another. This inconvenience, except in a few unimportant cases, has been obviated by a double arrangement. In narrating isolated biographies of individuals of the same surname the order in time is followed; they succeed each other according to the epochs in which the parties lived. Where, however, a lineal descent is traceable, the biographies are introduced and continued in a direct succession. The order of the series is here chronological but in the order of families, and not by individuals.

      To the student of Scottish history the value of the assistance furnished by a work of the character of ‘The Scottish Nation’ need not be dwelt upon. In the accounts given of every family or title of antiquity and note, numerous indirect and incidental lights are thrown upon its pages. The direct additional matter it supplies, is, however, perhaps of still more importance. In this, as well as in many other points, it will be found a more accurate and complete exhibition of the Earlier History of Scotland than any that has yet been presented to the public.

      In the course of his labours the author was necessarily obliged to enter into an extensive correspondence with noblemen and gentlemen in all parts of the kingdom, and with some families out of it, and he now returns his acknowledgments to all for the kindness and promptitude with which they answered his applications, furnished valuable information, and, in many cases, placed their family records, for the time, at his perusal. It may give some idea of the care and research bestowed upon this work when it is stated that the author was altogether nearly twelve years occupied in its composition and correction.

      The Autographs, Seals, Genealogical and Titular tables, and other illustrative objects, as well as the Portraits on wood and steel with which the work is so profusely embellished, have all been taken from original or other authentic sources.

      A National Gallery of Scottish Portraits has long been pointed out as a desideratum, and learned societies have recently brought the matter strongly before the public. In the case taken to make the Portrait illustrations authentic and numerous in a degree far beyond those in any collection heretofore presented to the world, the Publishers anticipate that the first exhibition of a National Portrait Gallery worthy of the name will be found in the pages of ‘The Scottish Nation.’

      The Biographies that were required to be added during the publication of the work by demise of distinguished individuals, are given in the form of a Supplement.


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