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History of the Town and Castle of Dumbarton
Preliminary Remarks on the Ancient General History of Scotland


THE ancient History of Scotland has furnished abundant matter for speculation to the antiquary and the curious. Scottish historians in general have consigned over to fable the first eight or nine centuries of our national history-a period some parts of which teem with a great deal of interest. We do not deny, however, that some fabulous legends may have been intermingled with some of the lives of our early Kings; but, on the other hand, wherever we find parts of our early history corroborated by Roman and other authors, we are bound to give our belief to the record. War—savage war— has slain his millions, his tens of millions, of the human family. This kingdom suffered awfully at a very early period by the bloody march of this horrid demon.

From Fergus, the first King of Scotland, whose reign began 330 years before the Christian era, till Eugenius the Second, whose reign ended in the year 404 after the birth of Christ,— a period comprehending the reign of forty Kings,—all these Kings, with only a few exceptions, were either killed in battle, or betrayed and murdered, or poisoned by their own friends and menials. These Kings were all buried in Dunstaffnage_ a strong ancient castle near Loch Etive, in Argyllshire, and 1rmerly one of the splendid royal palaces of the Scottish Kings. Again, from the reign of Eugenius the Second, in 404, till the reign of Malcolm Canmore, in 1051, comprehending a period of 650 years—during which forty-six Kings reigned —all these Kings also, with only two or three exceptions, shared the same fate. The monster War cut them down—or the treachery of friends often sent them to an early tomb. These latter were mostly all buried in Icolumbkill—orIona—a famed island in the west, to which island we will turn attention more particularly in the course of this brief history. After this period Dunfermline generally became the future place of sepulture of the Kings of Scotland.

If these wars have made such awful havoc amongst our early Scottish Kings, the question may be asked, what must they have done on the population generally? The reply is, the horrid monster swept them off in thousands, leaving nothing but ruin and desolation in his bloody train. So undaunted I and courageous in their battles were the Scots, and Picts, and Britons, that it was not rare to see two armies meet in battle array, with twenty or thirty thousand men each, commence the bloody carnage, and before sun-set--as in one instance—the whole Pictish army laid dead and dying on the field—only one man escaping, who swam a river, and conveyed the sad tidings to the capital of the Pictish kingdom!! Such as these were wars of savage bloodshed and extermination.

About 220 years before the Christian era, the Scots and Picts had a pitched battle, and there were such numbers killed on both sides that an ancient historian remarks, "By this unhappy battle was such terrible slaughter that neither Scots nor Picts were left living sufficient to inhabit their realms, nor to withstand their common enemies the Romans." We hesitate a little to make the following moral reflection, but historical truth impels us. We say, we are afraid that the principles of extermination by savage wars such as these have guided some of the polished cabinets of modern Europe for a century or two past. Where is the equity of that policy which sends disciplined armies to our Indian Provinces, to kill and to drive back into the interior the lawful possessors of the soil, and to occupy their lands, not by price, but by the power of the sword? Is there not a great deal of this principle mingled the British Legislature, in their present treatment of the aborginal inhabitants of New Zealand, in driving them into the interior, cutting them off, and seizing on their lands? This was exactly what the insatiable Roman armies did to the Britons, the Scots, and the Picts. The Scots and Britons were; nevertheless, as often victorious as their Roman invaders. They were never finally subdued, nor ever became permanently tributary to the Roman arms.

Caratacus, a Scottish King, who reigned about the 35th year of the Christian era, was one of the wealthiest Kings of ancient times. He had amassed a vast amount of riches. He and the King of the Picts unitedly raised an army of 125,000 men to meet their Roman invaders. In this battle the strength of the Roman army does not appear. The result, however, was, that Plancius, the Roman general, with his well disciplined soldiers, cut down the confederate armies, leaving only 600 Picts; and the few surviving Scots who escaped were pursued to the mountains.

Their King Caratacus was wounded, and with great difficulty was brought to his castle at Dunstaffnage. Shortly thereafter Vespasian, the Roman Emperor, sent ambassadors to Caratacus, promising, if he would be obedient to the Roman Empire and arms, he would be held in honour, and be reputed and holden as a friend to the Senate and people of Rome. His reply to the ambassadors of the Emperor was noble–.-yea, bold and courageous, and breathes something of the daring and martial spirit of the times—"Tell your master, the Emperor, that I will never submit to the Roman arms: my kingdom is my own, as much as the kingdom of Rome is Vespasian's." May not the Indian and the New Zealander say to our Government—"Our land is our own, why drive us away from it, and kill us, to take an unjust possession?"


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