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Appendix - Letter to the Pope from the Barons of Scotland


Although unconnected with the present work, we have no apology to offer in presenting to our readers one of the noblest letters ever penned.

It was sent to the Pope by the Barons of Scotland in 1320, or six years after the battle of Bannockburn. The English did not accept defeat at the hands of the Scots— far less propose peace—and the Scots had the prospect of interminable war with a foe against whom they must encounter fearful odds.

In this extremity, the Barons addressed the Pope as the common spiritual father of both nations, beseeching him to intervene in the quarrel:—

“To our most holy Father in Christ, and our Lord, John, by the Divine Providence, chief Bishop of the most holy Roman and Universal Church—Your humble and devoted Sons; Duncan, Earle of Fyfe; Thomas Randolph, Earle of Moray, Lord of Man, and Annandale; Patrick of Dumbar, Earle of March; Malise, Earle of Strathern; Malcolm, Earle of Lennox; William, Earle of Ross; Magnus, Earle of Caithness and Orkney; William, Earle of Sutherland; Walter, Steward of Scotland; James, Lord of Douglas; Roger de Mowbray; David, Lord of Brechyn; David de Graham; Ingeram de Umfraville; John de Menetethe, Warder of the Earldom of Menetethe; Alexander Frazer; Gilbert de Hay, Constable of Scotland; Robert de Keith, Mareschal of Scotland; Henry de Saint Clair; John de Graham; David de Lyndsay; William Oliphant; Patrick de Graham; John de Fenton; William de Abernethy; David de Wemys; William de Montealto; Allan de Moravia; Donald Cambell; John Cambrun; Reginald le Chene; Alexander de Setoun; Andrew de Lescelyn; and Alexander de Stratoun, and the rest of the barons and free tenants, and the whole community of the Kingdom of Scotland—Send all manner of filial reverence, with devout kisses of your blessed feet.

Most holy Father and Lord, we know and gather from the chronicles and books of the ancients, that in every famous nation, this of Scotland hath been celebrat with many praises. This nation having come from Sythia the greater, through the Tuscan Sea, and by Hercules Pillars, and having for many ages taken its residence in Spain, in the midst of a most fierce people, could never be brought in subjection by any people, how barbarous soever. And having removed from these parts, above twelve hundred years after the coming of the Israelites out of Egypt, did by many victories, and much toile obtain these parts in the West, which they still possess, having expelled the Britons, and intirely rooted out the Piets, notwithstanding of the frequent assaults and invasions they mett with from the Norvegians, Danes, and English. And these parts and possessions they have always retained free from all manner of servitude and subjection, as ancient histories do witness.

This Kingdom hath been governed by an uninterrupted succession of one hundred and thirteen Kings, all of our own native and Royal stock, without the intervening of any stranger.

The true nobility and merits of those Princes and people are very remarkable, from this one consideration, (tho' there were no other evidence for it)—That the King of Kings, the Lord Jesus Christ, after his Passion and Resurrection, honoured them as it were the first, (tho' living in the utmost ends of the earth,) wilh a call to his most holy Faith. Neither would our Saviour have them confirmed in the Christian Faith, by any other Instrument than his own first Apostle, (tho* in order the second or third) St. Andrew the most worthy brother of the blessed Peter, whom he would always have to be over us, as our patron or protector.

Upon the weighty consideration of these things, our most holy Fathers your predecessors, did with many great and singular favours and privileges, fence, and secure this Kingdom and people, as being their peculiar charge and care of the brother of St. Peter; so that our Nation hath hitherto lived in freedom and quietness under their protection till the Magnificent King Edward, Father to the present King of England, did under the colour of friendship, and allyance, or confederacie with innumerable oppressions infest us, who minded no fraud or deceit, at a time when we were without a King or Head, and when the people were unacquainted with warres and invasions. It is impossible for any whose own experience hath not informed him to describe, or fully understand, the injuries, blood, and violence, the depredations and fire, the imprisonments of Prelates, the burning slaughter and robberie committed upon holy persons and Religious Houses, and a vast multitude of other barbarities, which that King execute on this People, without sparing of any sex or ag^, Religion, or order of men whatsoever.

But at length it pleased God, who only can heal after wounds, to restore us to Libertie, from these innumerable calamities, by our most Serene Prince, King, and Lord, Robert, who for the delivering of his People, and his own Rightful Inheritance from the enemies hand, did, like another Josua, or Maccabeus most cheerfully undergo all manner of toyle, fatigue, hardship, and hazard. The Divine Providence, the right of Succession by the Laws and Customs of the Kingdom (which we will defend till death), and the due and lawfull Consent and Assent of all the People, made him our King and Prince. To him we are oblidged, and resolved to adhere in all things, both upon the account of his right, and his own merit, as being the person who hath restored the peoples safety, in defence of their Liberties. But after all, if this Prince shall leave these principles he hath so nobly pursued, and consent that we or our Kingdom be subjected to the King or people of England, we will immediately endeavour to expell him as our enemy and as the Subverter, both of his own and our rights, and will make another, King, who will defend our Liberties. For, so long as there shall but one hundred of us remain alivi, we will never give consent to subject out selves to the Dominion of the English. For it is not Glory, it is not Riches, neither is it Honour, but it is LIBERTY alone that we fight and contendfor, which no good man will lose but with his life.

For these reasons, most Reverend Father and Lord, We do with most earnest prayers, from our bended Knees and Hearts, beg and entreat your Holiness, that you may be pleased with a sincere, and cordial piety, to consider, that with Him, whose Vicar on Earth you are, there is no respect nor distinction of Jew, nor Greek, Scots, nor English, and that with a tender and Fatherly eye, you may look upon the calamities, and straits, brought upon us, and the Church of God by the English; and that you may admonish, and exhort the King of England (who may well rest satisfied with his own possessions, since that Kingdom of old used to be sufficient for seven or more Kings, to suffer us to live at peace in that narrow spot of Scotland, beyond which we have no habitation, since we desire nothing but our own, and we on our part, as farr as we are able, with respect to our own condition, shall effectually agree to him in everything that may procure our quiet.

It is your concernment, Most Holy Father, to interpose in this, when you see how farr the Violence, and Barbaritie of the Pagans is let loose to rage against Christendom for punishing of the sins of the Christians, and how much they dayly encroach upon the Christian Territories. And it is your interest to notice, that there be no ground given for reflecting on your memory, if you should suffer any part of the Church, to come under a scandal, or Ecclipse (which we pray God may prevent) during your times.

Let it therefore please your Holiness, to exhort the Christian Princes, not to malce the warres betwixt them and their neighbours, a pretext for not going to the relief of the Holy Land, since that is not the true cause of the impediment The truer ground of it is, that they have a much nearer prospect of advantage, and farr less opposition, in the subduing of their weaker neighbours. And God (who is ignorant of nothing) knows, with how much cheerfulness, both our King, and we would goe thither, if the King of England would leave us in peace, and we doe hereby testifie and declare it to the Vicar of Christ, and to all Christendom.

But if your Holiness shall be too credulous of the English misrepresentations, and not give firm credit to what we have said, nor desist to favour the English, to our destruction; we must believe that the Most High will lay to your charge, all the Blood, loss of souls, and other calamities that shall follow on either hand, betwixt us and them.

Your Holiness in granting our just desires, will oblidge us in every case, where our duty shall require it, to endeavour your satisfaction, as becomes the obedient sons of the Vicar of Christ.

We commit the defence of our cause to him who is the Soveraigne King and Judge, we cast the burden of our cares upon him, and hope for such an issue as may give strength and courage to us, and bring our Enemies to nothing. The Most High God long preserve your Serenity and Holyness to his Holy Church.

Given at the Monastery of Aberbrothock in Scotland, the sixth day of April, in the year of Grace M.C.C.C.X.X., And of our said King’s reign the X.V. year.

This letter so far as we are aware is not to be found in any history of Scotland—and we only stumbled upon it accidentally—although it is worthy of the most prominent and permanent record. Any of our readers having sufficient patriotism and means, would earn the gratitude of the Scottish nation by presenting it in the form of an illuminated manuscript to the custodiers of the Wallace monument— or better still, have it engraven upon plates of brass.

Sir Henry James says of it: “The Barons* Letter is surely the noblest burst of patriotic feeling, the finest declaration of independence that real history has to show, and that has been preserved in the language in which it was uttered.

Despite the rather mythical account of the origin of the Scottish nation, the sentiments breathed in the letter proved to be no empty boast, for the writers and their descendants had to struggle for their independence during the succeeding 260 years, and it has been computed that a pitched battle was fought for just about each year of the time.

Daniel, a learned Englishman, says: “Hereupon broke out that mortal dispute between the two nations, that consumed more Christian blood, wrought more spoil and destruction, and continued longer, than ever quarrel we read of did between any two people of the world; for he that began it could not end it The rancour which the sword had bred, and the perpetually working desire of revenge for wrongs, that ever beget wrongs, lasted almost three hundred years. If any side had the honour, it was the invaded nation, which, being the weaker and smaller, seems never to have been subdued, though often overcome: continuing, notwithstanding all their miseries, resolute to preserve their liberties, which never people of the world more nobly defended against so potent and rich a kingdom as this: by the which, without an admirable hardness and constancy, it had been impossible but they must have been brought to an utter destruction.”

Froude says: “Three nations have ploughed deep in the history of the world—India, Greece, and Scotland.”

It may well be asked—Can such a record be forgotten by any Scotsman? and the answer must be, Yes; it is forgotten by many who are too apt to take things as they find them, pay no regard to past history, and concern themselves only with what affects the stomach or the body. Many Scotsmen as well as Englishmen seem to regard Scotland as a mere province of England, and not as she actually is—a nation quite as independent in every sense of the word as is England.

We go heartily with Dean Ramsay when he says:—

“If we shall have little to mark our national peculiarities in the time to come, we cannot be deprived of our reminiscences of the past As a Scotchman I am proud of the prestige which belongs to us a nation. I am interested in everything which is Scottish. I consider it an honour to have been born a Scotchman: and one fain excuse I have to offer for entertaining a proud feeling on the subject, one proof I can adduce that a Scottish lineage is considered a legitimate source of self-congratulation, and that is the fact that I never in my life knew an English or Irish family with Scottish relations where the members did not refer with much complacency to such national connection. I cherish fondly all Scottish associations. I am grieved to see our nationality fading away. I confess to a strong feeling of regret and indignation when I see the indifference shown by the government (whatever party be in power) towards the few memorials of that nationality that remain. Witness the condition of Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Chapel and Palace, etc., etc., and the neglect shown regarding their preservation and restoration.”

We are of opinion however that the worthy Dean takes rather a pessimistic view of Scottish nationality, which he thinks is fading away. To a certain extent this is true ; and yet, when occasion calls it forth it is found not to be dead but only asleep. Witness the enthusiasm evoked in favour of our Highland Regiments being maintained, when Government seeks to disband or denationalise them: such attempts shewing how utterly ignorant are the English people of the sentiments which animate the Scottish nation.

Nations partake as a whole of the characteristic traits of the individual. A lawyer in Glasgow, now deceased, who had an extensive practice and knowledge of human nature, was wont to say that when his clients became wealthy, their characters invariably changed for the worse: and how often may we see men, who in their humbler days were kind and considerate, develope, along with their wealth, arrogance and selfishness.

The English nation although a noble one have acquired the faults of prosperity. They have never been conquered since the time of William of Normandy, and are justly proud of this. Having always been a prosperous and wealthy people, they have gradually come to the conclusion that England is the centre of the universe, and that no country is equal to it. When they express disapproval they are apt to say “ it is un-English,” and all else is inferior if not English.

Hence, they would promote the best interests of Scotland and Ireland too—in their own estimation—if they could only get the inhabitants of these two countries to sink their past history and nationality, and become provinces of England. As regards Scotland however they are gradually and slowly beginning to suspect that the Scotch are their equals. Even in the matter of wealth, the Scotch have outstripped them in the race, and are as a nation £15 per head richer than the English; so that the saying "puir auld Scotland ” may be altered to “puir auld England.”

The truth is that English, Scotch, and Irish, all differ in their characteristics; but the differences do not make one superior or inferior to the others—there are traits of strength and weakness in each, which the others may well emulate or avoid.

Then let us pray that come it may—
As come it will, for a' that—
That sense and worth, o’er a’ the earth,
May bear the gree, and a* that.
For a’ that, and a’ that,
It’s coming yet, for a' that,
That man to man, the warld o’er,
Shall brothers be, for a' that.


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