Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Scotland's Influence on Civilization
Scotland's Place in History

THE land of the thistle and the heather, the castle and the crag, is at best but a narrow land—two hundred and eighty-eight miles between extremes from north to south, and fifty-two from east to west. Its place in history, however, is well assured, and its influence is wide as the world. Its physical aspect is exceedingly diversified and picturesque. The sky bends in beauty, the soil teems with verdure, the air rings in elastic tension, the waters sparkle with life and health. It is a land where youth may drink in exhilaration with every breath, manhood find food for high endeavor in every battle of life, and old age flourish like the evergreen pine. With a coastline of twenty-five hundred miles so deeply indenting the main land on three sides as to bring every foot of it within forty-five miles of the sea, with nearly eight hundred islands closely environing it and furnishing many a quiet inlet and many a bold outlook to the ocean, and with an alternating panorama of highland and lowland, of lake, river and mountain, through all its borders,--Scotland would seem to be the spot of all the earth ordained by Providence for the dwelling-place of a hardy, athletic, gallant race.

Such, in fact, have been its destiny and its history. It is not the country, but the heroic people inhabiting it, that has given Scotland its name in history and its influence on the world's civilization. And the object of this monograph is to sketch in briefest outline a few salient points in the character of the people, the work they have done and the influence they have exerted.

Who has not admired the genius and gloried in the heroism of that long line of "Scottish worthies" who fought as if they were fighting the battles of all mankind and gave their names to history as an everlasting remembrance? Who has not followed them down from century to century and often felt his indignation ablaze at the recital of their wrongs and their sacrifices for truth and for conscience' sake? What associations crowd upon us, what memories awake, what inspirations kindle, at the mention of such names as Bruce and Wallace, Knox and Melville, Argyle and Murray, rray, Gillespie and Henderson, Erskine and Chalmers, Scott and Burns, Livingstone and Alexander Duff!

It is instructive to notice the part which the little nationalities of the earth have played in the grand drama of civilization. We hear much about the "great powers" and how they shape the destiny of the world. History, both ancient and modern, has much to tell us of their majesty, their broad domain, their almost omnipotent sway. The old world powers of the Orient—Assyria, Chaldea, Egypt, Medo-Persia, Macedonia, Rome—all figure largely on the pages of the past, each claiming in its turn the mastery of the world. In more recent times the great races of Germany, France, Spain, Austria, Russia, Prussia, Turkey, England, have almost monopolized the map of Europe, where they still struggle for the balance of power. Is this the sum of the old-world civilized history? The whole tale is not told until we have looked at the little nationalities—Palestine, Greece, Venetia, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Scotland—each on its narrow strip of soil and with its wide influence on the world. Where has the human race risen to higher glory in the prowess of the individual man or in the achievements of the body politic than in these "pent-up Uticas" of the rocks or seas? Here is a belt of once-independent states, small isolated nations, stretching diagonally across the very heart of the civilized world from south-east to north-west, on the very lino of march which civilization followed when it•left the East and made the history of modern Europe. There is something sublime in the influence which has gone out over all time from these apparently insignificant corners of the earth. There is something which seems to point to an invisible and almighty hand that can work alike by many or by few, and that often with the smallest means accomplishes its greatest works.

Strike from history these five or six lesser nationalities, and who then could tell the whole story of arts and arms, of literature and philosophy, of national independence, of civil and religious liberty? The I1'taccabean deliverers of Palestine, the Greeks at Marathon, the Venetian masters of the seas, the Swiss compatriots of William Tell, the heroes of the Dutch republic, the Scots of Stirling Bridge and Bannockburn, belong to all nations and to all time. They have done much to make the larger nations what they were, and to make the world what it is. Palestine gave the world a religion—the first, the last, the best, the only divine, religion. Greece gave it art, literature, philosophy, the highest which human genius unassisted ever attained. Venice gave it the earliest essays in that skill of finance and commerce which has since ruled all civilized nations. Switzerland and Holland gave it the earliest practical demonstration of those republican institutions which to-day constitute the civic glory of the American national Union. Scotland, besides other great gifts, has bequeathed to it the finest example to be found in all Christendom of a thoroughly-educated, law-abiding, free and Christianized people.

In some respects there is a marked parallel between Scotland and Greece—the one at the extreme north-west, the other at the extreme south-east, of Europe ; the one jutting out high upon the Atlantic, the other overlooking the Mediterranean waters—Scotland being somewhat the larger of the two. Both are peninsular terminations of a larger territory and deeply interpenetrated by surrounding seas. They are wholly different in climatic influences, the one looking southward over sunny and pacific seas which greatly modify the conditions of all animal and vegetative life, the other facing northward over wild and tempest-tossed waters with no protecting barrier against the storms of the frozen ocean. Each alike, however, is marvelously beautified by every changing mood of hill and valley, forest and mountain-chain. Each alike is, or was, the native home of a race of heroes, the birthplace of a long and glorious history in the days of its independence. Europe had but one Greece, the abode of the Muses, the battle-ground of the giants, the alma mater of science, philosophy and literature. And Europe has had but one Scotland for that older realm of beauty. Byron perhaps sang too sad a requiem in the line,

"Tis Greece, but living Greece no more;"

for when the iron yoke of the Turk shall be broken—as broken it will be—Greece is yet to awake to a new and nobler destiny. Scotland, however, needs no requiem. Her separate nationality is indeed gone, but no iron yoke has ever crushed her spirit. 'Tis Scotland—living Scotland—still; and the later glory outshines the earlier.

The sceptre of dominion has passed from the old capital and passed into other hands, but the heroic race is still there in all its pristine vigor, undegenerated, unconquered, well worthy of the national emblem, and now as ever ready to make good its old motto: "Nemo me impune lacesset." The rugged hills and granite rocks that had so often given it shelter in the hour of disaster were not more indestructible than was the hardy lifeblood which flowed through Scottish veins during all those years of conflict. That persistent purpose of a brave and united people who loved liberty as they loved life itself, that undefeated and unconquerable national spirit which had showed itself so strong in Wallace and Bruce, at Iast asserted its power and its right to the soil in the just and equal terms of the national compact with England. This compact of incorporation healed all past breaches and made the larger and the smaller kingdoms one and inseparable for all time. Nothing of honor, nothing of independence, nothing of true national glory, was lost to the Scot in becoming a North Briton: it was an alliance of equals for the common weal and the common defence of Britain. Unlike other regions of the Old World when smaller nationalities have been crushed under the heel of despotic power, the traveler of to-day in Scotland finds no memorials there of subjection and degeneracy: all there is life and freedom. The same glorious race that existed a thousand years ago is still at home upon its soil, only more advanced in all the elements of true national greatness, and the no-bier, too, because of all the fiery trials of the past.

Return to Book Contents Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus