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Scotland's Influence on Civilization
The Long Struggle for Liberty


THE most impressive spectacle in history is not the march of mighty armies led by a conqueror and treading down all opposition under the iron heel of War, but a gallant people standing on the line of right within its own borders and there heroically defending its firesides and its institutions of civil and religious freedom against overwhelming numbers. Such was the attitude of Scotland, and such the sublime spectacle of her intrepid race, through the long wasting wars that reddened all her southern borders and at times extinguished many of her noblest families. In all history it would be difficult to find a more enduring and heroic people.

The present population of Scotland is upward of three millions. At the date of the final reunion and incorporation with England, near the opening of the eighteenth century, the whole Scottish people did not exceed one million. In all probability there had been no preceding; period during the long eventful history in which the number of inhabitants was not considerably less than a million. Ten centuries of bloody, desolating warfare had often decimated the race and cut short illustrious lines. Less than two centuries of peaceful agriculture, manufacture and commerce, under the genial sway of science, literature, religion, rudimental education, artistic culture, philosophical research and free constitutional government, have been sufficient to treble the home-population even while an adventurous foreign emigration has been carrying its uncounted myriads abroad to people every continent and every island of the ocean with Scotsmen. The grandest lesson of modern history—that peace, not war, is the true policy of nations, the ars alrtiaum of all human progress—was never more strikingly illustrated than it has been in the history of Scotland.

Since the Union of 1707, Scotland has constituted an integral portion of the British empire, having voluntarily yielded up her separate nationality after defending it with gallant success for more than a thousand years. In the early spring of 1603, on the death of Queen Elizabeth, James VI. of Scotland, uniting in himself the royal titles to the crowns of both kingdoms, had quietly ascended the English throne. Edinburgh lost her royal court, but for a hundred years longer Scotland was still in possession of her Parliament and her independence, the joint-sovereign reigning over the two still separate kingdoms. But in the year 1706 the Scottish Parliament met for the last time. The members, at the opening, rode, as was the custom, in slow and solemn procession up the old Canongate of Edinburgh from Holyrood Palace to the Parliament-house. The act of union was passed by the two Parliaments, and on the 1st of May in the year following the two rival kingdoms became one; the court was transferred to London, and the government merged into the one Parliament of Great Britain. The two nations in the long course of their history had met each other in three hundred and fourteen pitched battles, and had sacrificed more than a million of men as brave as ever wielded claymore, sword or battle-axe. Against superior numbers and amidst unparalleled disasters the lesser realm had fearlessly maintained its independence from the days of Kenneth McAlpine to those of Robert Bruce, and from Bruce down to the last of the Stuart pretenders. When, however, the Scottish people at last yielded to the inexorable logic of events and accepted the situation, they went into the Union with a brilliant record and an unsullied escutcheon. They had covered themselves with glory (at times nothing else had been left to cover with), and they carried with them as the best prestige for the future the grandest of all remembrances—the remembrance of a heroic national history. The Scot had now become a North Briton, but Scotland was living Scotland still.

"Deep-graven on her breast she wore
The names of all her valiant dead,
And with the great inscription felt
As Douglas with De Bruce's heart—
That she was still a conqueror."

The fundamental principle of the union with England was that of a complete incorporation of the two nationalities in one government under one sovereign head and one representative Parliament, with equal rights and privileges for the people and a proportionate burden of the common taxation. The conditions of the problem then settled and the greatness of that settlement are well stated in the following sentences from Charles Knight's History of England: "The complete union of two independent nations, to be brought about by common consent and the terms to be settled as in a commercial partnership, was an event which seems natural and easy when we look to the geographical position of the two nations and to the circumstance that they had been partially united for a century under six sovereigns wearing the crown of each kingdom. But when we look to the long-standing jealousies of the two nations, their sensitive assertion of ancient superiority, the usual haughty condescension of the wealthier country, the sturdy pride of the poorer, the ignorance of the bulk of each people of the true character of the other, the differences of the prevailing forms of religion, the more essential differences of laws and their modes of administration,—we may consider the completion of this union as one of the greatest achievements of statesmanship."

It was, in fact, an -admirable adjustment of all the old grievances and a fitting close to the feuds and animosities, inherited from generation to generation, which had kept the neighboring kingdoms in perpetual strife. If they had continued to fight each other to the present day, they could not have received an adjustment more honorable and advantageous to both parties. The weaker kingdom lost nothing by becoming an integral part of a greater kingdom, and the greater lost nothing, but gained much, by uniting its destiny with a powerful race that should henceforward contribute its full share to the national greatness. The Scot only relinquished a smaller for a more enlarged and permanent independence. Ile found a more solid and enduring basis for that national independence and that constitutional liberty in defence of which he had so often drawn the sword. There could have been no better, nobler termination of the long and bloody conflict, lie had, indeed, gained all for which he had ever fought.

The royal race of his native land.—that race which in the person of Bruce had struggled so hard to retain its independent throne—was now upon a greater throne, the throne of United Britain. That small and often turbulent Parliament of his ancient capital had ceased only to give place to another and more powerful Parliament of the united nation, of which he was to be a constituent member, and of which the Scottish people, like the English, were to be independent electors. The lesser nationality was not lost, but merged into the greater. The people who could look back through a long line of heroes never quailing before the face of battle surrendered no dignity by a voluntary union into which they carried such a history.

It was a union not easily effected. In all probability, it could never have been accomplished except by those peculiar circumstances which gradually prepared and at last reconciled the two divergent and conflicting nationalities. The cost of the preparation had been immense. To the last there were those in the smaller realm who stoutly resisted what seemed an unnatural connection. They felt that the knell of Scotland's glory had sounded. The union, however, once effected, soon demonstrated the wisdom of its policy. The success of it was its magnificent vindication. The problem was plain enough when the overruling providence of God had once solved it by showing how much better it was for two powerful races shut up on a narrow island, with no natural boundary between them, to dwell in the close and peaceful bonds of a great national compact than to be for ever wasting each other's strength by interminable bloody wars. Under such circumstances the good of the one was the highest good of the other, and whatever glory either could have attained alone was far more than doubled by the higher glory of one great united nation. Probably no union in all history has proved more beneficial to the contracting parties or become more close and indissoluble.


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