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The Scot in England
Chapter I - An Unconquerable Breed


The history of the Scottish people is largely a history of Scotsmen who have emigrated from the land of their birth. The Fates decreed, apparently, that it was to be the dark lot of Caledonia to educate her sons and then send them to far places. All through the centuries this has been so, nor will we see it changed, for the practical genius of the Scot, and the more pleasing aspects of his nature, do not expand freely in Scotland. In order that he may grow, the Scot must be transplanted while young. Rooted in his native soil he remains hard, gnarled, and knotty, like a Scotch fir leaning stubbornly against the winds of a rocky headland.

During the past ten years, 391,903 Scots left their native land, reducing the population of the country from 4,882,497 to 4,842,980. Of the 391,903 emigrants, 328,000 sailed from these islands. What became of the remaining 60,000? There is only one answer—they trekked across the border and settled down in England. No other country in the world received such copious transfusions of vigorous blood at so little cost.

Yet Scotland, somehow, survives this perennial blood-letting. Indeed, in spite of her appalling losses of population, she has grown, slowly, like the oak, and, like the oak, hardening her texture in the tedious process. At the time of Parliamentary Union there were 1,093,000 people in Scotland ; it has taken more than two centuries to achieve an increase in population of 3,749,980. When we compare these population figures with those of England, for the same period, we begin to understand what has been called The Tragedy of Scotland. Only a hardy breed could survive the conditions that these figures connote.

The earliest Scots did not leave their country. On the contrary, they clung tenaciously to their barren acres and their primitive huts, fighting savagely against a succession of covetous invaders. They defended their dismal hinterland against the disciplined Roman legions, and with a degree of success that puzzled and irritated the military masters of Europe. Agricola, with all his skill as a military strategist, had a hard time battling his way north to the Firth of Forth, and in that airt he ran into the red-headed Caledonians. It was no use pitting Romans against these wild men from the Highlands, so, just as a precautionary measure, Agricola built his line of forts from the Firth of Forth to the Firth of Clyde. The Caledonians remained in their mountains till Agricola went back to Rome, then they pushed the forts over.

Rome, however, was too proud to overlook this sort of thing, and the Emperor Hadrian went north to take a look at things. He must have seen a good deal of the Caledonians, for he backed up and built his sod wall between the Tyne and the Solway. This soft barricade only aroused the curiosity of the Picts and the Scots of the Lowlands, and after inspecting it carefully they swarmed over it, invaded South Britain, did some killing, and headed home with booty. Another good Roman reputation was tarnished.

Lollius Urbicus was the next great Roman general to be sent against the tribesmen of North Britain. He followed Agricola's road to the Firth of Forth, and built another huge wall across the waspish waist of the country, naming it in honour of his emperor Antoninus. It was a fine achievement in military architecture, but it did not keep the redheaded raiders in their own territory, and Lollius had to admit that he was beaten. The Caledonians opposed his massed troops with guerilla tactics, and in this type of warfare, with cold steel to the fore, the men from the Highlands were, as they have always been since, unbeatable.

Something had to be done about them, however. The prestige of Roman arms was at stake. Ignoring his generals, the Emperor Severus took the problem in hand himself. With an immense army at his command, he marched into North Britain, and kept on marching till he was within sight of Lossiemouth. He had killed a number of Caledonians, but when he came to make a tally of his own army on the shores of the Moray Firth, he discovered that he had 50,000 fewer soldiers than when he started on his march. That settled Severus. He made a dignified but smartly executed retreat to the border, built a stone wall between the Tyne and the Solway, and sent his regrets to Rome. That was the last attempt made to keep the Picts and Scots out of England. Rome, with trouble piling up nearer home, was quite content to leave the tribes of North Britain [This term is still used to signify Scotland, and the English are blamed for perpetuating its use. As a matter of fact, the diminutive letters "N.B." are printed on the notepaper of most of the county families and successful tradespeople of Scotland to-day.] to their own devices.

In their turn, the Norsemen and the Danes had their fling at Caledonia. Sometimes they met with success ; often they were repulsed; always they were stubbornly resisted. They, too, left traces of their successive invasions, for many of them remained in the country to which they came to ravish, raising fair-haired, horse-faced, high-shouldered children. The blood of those vigorous pagans from across the seas flows strongly in the Orkneys to-day, and further south. Phlegmatic blood, but strong in courage and with the old love of questing in it. The pagan pirates came to North Britain to weaken and conquer it; they left it stronger, and unconquered, but facing the worst enemy it had yet encountered—England. The fibre of the northern tribesmen was to be tested and toughened by nearly five centuries of savage warfare with their southern neighbours.

The lot of the common people of Scotland at this period was one of perennial poverty, but the stately ruins which dot the countryside are mute evidence of the certainty that civilizing influences were at work. The records of the benign and enlightened ecclesiastical outposts that were established were swept away by the raging fires of war and religious bigotry; but there is not the slightest doubt that, nurtured by these centres of culture and learning, the long-repressed genius of the country flowered briefly in the twelfth century. [King David I of Scotland (1124-1153) made ecclesiastical history by his whole-souled support of the Church. He almost beggared the country by building such famous monasteries as Melrose, Dundrennan, Holyrood, Dryburgh, and Newbattle.]

We catch glimpses of this vague but interesting era in the ruins of beautiful monasteries, in convincing historical evidence that agriculture was on a diversified and progressive basis in the lowlands, and in the fact that scholars of wide renown came out of the country. Michael Scot emerged from the mists to impress England and Europe with his learning :

A wizard of such dreaded fame, That when, in Salamanca's cave, Him listed his magic wand to wave, The bells would ring in Notre Dame.

It appears, also, that Michael studied medicine on the Continent, for he returned to Scotland with a reputation for the successful treatment of leprosy, gout, and dropsy, and he compounded a pill called "Pilulae Magistri Michaelis Scoti", which, like some of these modern pills that are wrapped in pretty boxes, was both popular and potent. Michael assured Scottish sufferers that it was "guaranteed to relieve headache, purge the humours wonderfully, produce joyfulness, brighten the intellect, improve the vision, sharpen hearing, preserve youth, and retard baldness". Had he lived to-day, this healer would undoubtedly have thought of many other diseases that would have yielded to his powerful concoction.

This mysterious character was born in 1175, and was probably the first Scot who studied at Oxford University. His passion for mathematics, astrology, and the occult sciences took him to Paris and Rome, and his genius so impressed Europe that he was invited to join the glittering galaxy of savants that was a feature of the Court of Frederick II. While basking in the sunshine of that monarch's patronage, Michael translated Aristotle and wrote several books that dealt with astrology, alchemy, and his dark occult theories. He foretold Frederick's death in 1250, and having guessed well in that instance, set the date of his own departure from this sphere, adding the interesting detail that he would be killed by a stone weighing less than two ounces. From that day onwards he wore an iron helmet. Fate, however, caught him with his hat off. He was in church one day, and at the Elevation of the Host removed his helmet. Crack ! A small stone fell from the lofty roof of the church, killing him instantly but vindicating his reputation as a prophet of doom. Another faded vignette salvaged from that remote era shows that the Scots had already begun to take a kindly interest in the education of the English. It is surely a curious historical fact that Lady Devorguila, daughter of Alan, the last of the old Kings of Galloway, was the benefactress of Balliol College, Oxford. Following the death of her husband, John de Balliol, in 1269, this devout lady built a house in Horsemonger's Lane, in St. Mary Magdalene's Parish, on the site of the existing college, and in 1282 gave her scholars statutes under her seal.

Two years later she purchased a tenement known as Mary's Hall, which was "to be used as a perpetual settlement for the principal and scholars of

the House of Balliol". This domicile was called New Balliol Hall. The revenues of the college in those days would not buy cigarettes for the brilliant lotus-eaters who stroll through their studies at Balliol to-day. They produced only one shilling and sixpence per week for each scholar. Lady Devorguila, however, made up the deficiencies by substantial gifts, and when she died the college was supported by her son, King Balliol of Scotland. The son's generosity, in fact, was so boundless that he ended up by handing Scotland over to the English, and we will catch a revealing glimpse of the conditions that produced the modern Scot as we pause a moment to see how Balliol was driven to the miserable extremity of bartering his country for his freedom.

When that incorrigible meddler, Edward I of England, bullied the Scottish barons into accepting John Balliol as their king on the 17th of November, 1292, the bloodiest chapter in Scotland's history opened. Balliol was a weakling. He tried to stand out against Edward, and by way of counteracting the latter's pressure, established the Franco-Scottish Alliance. The fight for Scottish independence was in earnest, and it proved to be the most gruelling test to which the tenacity of the race has ever been subjected. Edward led an army against the prosperous town of Berwick-on-Tweed, and to show the Scots that he was not a man to be treated lightly when coveted new territory, he razed the town and put its inhabitants—men, women, and children—to the sword. That slaughter completed, he led his army north to Perth, and there celebrated his victories. It did look as if he had crushed the Scots completely, and a day or two later Balliol, stripped to his underwear, handed the Bishop of Durham the white wand of abject surrender.

Edward, however, made the same mistake that so many other would-be conquerors of Scotland made—he underestimated the unconquerable spirit of the common people. Balliol had surrendered the independence of their country ; they had not. So, just when Edward's English satraps thought they had the country tamed, Sir William Wallace drew his sword in the town of Lanark, and he did not lay it aside until he met England's soldiers "beard to beard", and had swept the hated invaders back into their own country. The first great hero of the common people of Scotland was betrayed by the landed class, who should have been the last to desert him, and by their connivance he was hanged, castrated, and beheaded in London ; but he had shown England what made the heart of Scotland beat strong and true—the courage of the common people. It was this courage of which Robert Bruce became the symbol after Wallace's dismembered body had been scattered throughout Scotland ; it was this courage which sustained the new King in his wanderings following his shabby coronation ; and it was this courage which, at Bannockburn, on the 24th of June, 1314, inflicted upon English arms the greatest defeat they have ever sustained in fair fighting.

England had learned, as Rome had learned, that she was dealing with a race that would not accept defeat. Well might Christopher Marlowe put these words into the mouth of Edward II:

And as for you, Lord Mortimer of Chirke,
Whose great achievements in our forrain warre,
Deserve no common place, nor meane reward:
Be you the generall of the levied troopes,
That now are readie to assaile the Scots.

The levied troops did not succeed, however. Scotland's independence had been fought for and won at terrible cost, and although the struggle against "the auld enemie" was to last for centuries, the country had been united by common sacrifice, its real strength had been revealed, and in the white heat of the endless war against a more powerful country the people were tempered to the hardness which was to make their descendants the wonder of the modern world.

Their determination to be free was immovable. A curious proof of this almost fanatical resistance to England's attempted domination may be seen in the letter which the Barons of Scotland addressed to the Pope in April of 1320:

We know [they wrote in Latin], and from the chronicles and books of the ancients gather, that among other illustrious nations, ours, to wit the nation of the Scots, has been distinguished by many honours; which passing from the greater Scythia through the Mediterranean Sea and the Pillars of Hercules and sojourning in Spain among the most savage tribes through a long course of time, could nowhere be subjugated by any people however barbarous; and coming thence one thousand two hundred years after the outgoing of the people of Israel, they, had many victories and infinite toil, acquired for themselves the Possessions in the West which they now hold after expelling the Britons and completely destroying the Picts, and although very often assailed by the Norwegians, the Danes, and the English, always kept them free from all servitude, as the histories of the ancients testify.

The sins committed by the Edwards against Scotland are solemnly enumerated to the Most Holy Father at Rome; Robert Bruce is praised for delivering the country from the oppressors ; but this ringing declaration, which carries a warning to the Scottish King, follows:

But if he were to desist from what he has begun, wishing to subject us or our kingdom to the Kings of England or the English, we would immediately endeavour to expel him as our enemy and the subverter of his own rights and ours, and make another our king who should be able to defend us. For, as long as a hundred remain alive, we will never in any degree be subject to the dominion of the English. since not for Glory, Riches or Honours we fight, but for Liberty alone, which no good man loses but with his life.

Such was the spirit that sustained Scotland during the early part of the fourteenth century. In those dark days it could be kindled only in the hearts of a valiant and intelligent breed, and we are not surprised, therefore, to find the country giving promise of its future genius by producing, here and there, men who became eminent in the intellectual world. Even in those far-off days, these scholarly men found their way into England. One of the first of them was John de Duns, sometimes called Scotus. He was born at the end of the thirteenth century, and was the first of the long line of grim and learned Scots who have held Professorships at Oxford University. John was almost too good to be true, if we are to swallow the following tribute to his genius, penned by a contemporary Cardinal:

Among all the scholastic doctors, I must regard John Duns Scotus as a splendid sun, obscuring all the stars of heaven by the piercing acuteness of his genius; by the subtlety and the depth of the most wide, the most hidden, the most wonderful learning, this most subtle doctor surpasses all others, and in my opinion, yields to no writer of any age. His productions, the admiration and despair even of the most learned among the learned, being of such extreme acuteness, that they exercise, excite, and sharpen even the brightest talents to a more sublime knowledge of divine objects, it is no wonder that the most profound writers join in one voice, "that this Scot, beyond all controversy, surpasses not only the contemporary theologians, but even the greatest of ancient or modern times, in the sublimity of his genius and the immensity of his learning!"

It is perhaps advisable to add that the testimonial was not written by a Scot. It may seem to be a trifle lacking in scholarly reserve, and the cynic might point out that John left very little evidence of his sublime genius. Nevertheless, this most subtle doctor was an authentic character, for he was appointed Professor of Divinity at Oxford University in the year 1301. Only a hazy picture of him comes across the intervening centuries, but it is one, if we may judge by his writings, of a monkish, pragmatic pedant who specialized in turgid denunciations of unbelievers.

Three centuries were to pass before Scottish scholars were heard of again, for the weary struggle with England reduced the country to a state of poverty and ignorance. The clashes became more serious as the years rolled on. Hatred of England had been bred into the blood and bones of the Scots; from the end of the thirteenth century they hated their southern neighbours with a hatred that lay cold in their very vitals. Back in 1388, just before the bloody battle of Otterburn, the Earl of Douglas said to his French ally, De Vienne: "My friend, you shall see that our army shall not be idle, and as for our Scottish people, they will endure pillage, and they will endure famine, and every other extremity of war, but they will not endure English masters."

In view of the almost magical manner in which Scotsmen rise to positions of authority in England to-day, the last observation of the Douglas was prophetic.

War had become the normal condition in Scottish life. Armies moved back and forth across the border, leaving chaos and death behind them. Raiders rode at night through the debatable lands. There was no peace or security for anybody, and under these disturbed conditions of existence trade languished, agriculture became a lost art, and the people sank deeper and deeper into the mires of poverty and ignorance.

AEneas Sylvius, afterwards Pius II, paid the country a visit in 1413, and he had this to say about it when he got back to Rome:

It is an island joined to England, stretching two hundred miles to the north, and about fifty broad, a cold country, fertile of few sorts of grain, and generally void of trees, but there is a sulphureous stone dug up which is used for firing. The towns are unwalled, the houses commonly built without lime, and in villages roofed with turf, while a cow's hide supplies the place of a door. The commonalty are poor and uneducated, have abundance of flesh and fish, but eat bread as a dainty. The men are small in stature, but bold ; the women fair and comely, and prone to the pleasures of love, kisses being esteemed of less consequence than pressing the hand is in Italy. Nothing gives the Scots more pleasure than to hear the English dispraised.

Much blood was to be spilled on both sides of the border before the ancient enmity was softened ; but even so, it is possible to discern, in the turbulent reigns of the Stuart kings, a gradual but inevitable converging of the destinies of the two countries. Perhaps the feeling grows upon the student of history because the Stuarts, with all their faults, indicated that they had a larger conception of statesmanship than the great majority of the rowdy Scottish barons who surrounded them.

So, as we enter the sixteenth century, we see the dawn of peace glimmering dimly on the border. The darkness lifted when James IV of Scotland married Margaret Tudor in 1503. That talented man died at Flodden, and his son, James V, died at Solway Moss; but the very violence of the fighting which these tragic events connoted seemed to presage the end of it all, and the light still glimmered over the Pentland Hills.

Mary, the infant daughter of James V, succeeded to the throne, and the curtain rose slowly on the most poignant tragedy of Scottish history. Both countries drifted further into the angry waters of religious intolerance:

And pulpit, drum ecclesiastic,
Was beat with fist instead of a stick.

Inflamed by the harsh eloquence of John Knox, Scotland rallied to the Reformation. In England the fanatics burned bishops at the stake, and Queen Elizabeth became head of the Anglican Church.

The drama of the century rushed to its climax. Mary came back from France, married the degenerate Darnley, fought her protracted duel with the implacable Knox, and at the end of the pathetic struggle abdicated the throne in favour of her infant son James. For Mary Stuart nothing remained but the insults of the Scottish rabble, the long years in English prisons, and the axe at Fotheringay. For her son James a great destiny loomed up, for on the night of 24th March, 1603, Sir Robert Carey, riding a jaded horse, arrived at Holyrood Palace with the news that Queen Elizabeth was dead, and two days later another messenger brought the Scottish King word that the Privy Council of England had chosen him to succeed the Maiden Queen.


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