« AnteriorContinuar »
it so dangerous that they concealed it not only from the public, but from their fellow-councillors. They found, however, that the “ bruit” of it had got abroad ; and with profuse expressions of humility and obedience they say: “As the Lord knows, we have no other thing before our eyes but your majesty's honour and the general content of your subjects, who at the first raising of the uncertain bruit of this fine—whereof the particulars is yet unknown unto them were so inoved with the rareness of the matter, and the apprehension of fear upon the preparation and consequence thereof, as we have not heard of a matter so hardly tane with, and so dangerously apprehended by all ranks of persons. For the like of this fine was never heard of in this kingdom ; and there never was a crime, how grievous soever, whilk was punished by fining that received such a censure. Nor can the means of private persons afford such sums; and the man himself, although in the general opinion he be wealthy, is not known to have so much stock as the sum imposed. And if it be left in record, it will import the effect of ane forfeiture, and a depriving him of his whole estate, whilk, in a matter of this kind, respect being had to the quality of the offence and quantity of the fine, will not be warranted by example, and in the opinion of many will not subsist by course of justice. The consideration whereof hath moved us heathertills to conceal the fine, being persuaded that the Council would never allow thereof; and we were loath that any of your majesty's directions should receive an interruption or hard interpretation.”l.
It is interesting to have in the end to show that the last public act of King James affecting the subjects of his ancient kingdom imported a decided misgiving about the violent onward course pursued by him, and was in fact a revocation of the latest step taken in it. That step was indeed the climax of his policy of force. A proclamation had been issued enjoining a special Christmas communion. It began with much scolding, directed against the recusants, as, “ Misled with their own conceits and opinions, and
Original Letters (Bannatyne Club), 753 ; Melros Papers, 573.
with an hypocrítical affectation of purity and zeal above others.”. The conclusion was : “That the communion be celebrated in all kirks of our burgh of Edinburgh at Christmas next; and that all persons, as well as our Privy Council, Session, magistrates of our burgh of Edinburgh, and all others, the community of the same, be all present, and take the communion kneeling ; wherein if they fail, we, for that contempt of God and Us, will not only remove the Session, but also ail other courts of justice from our said burgh.")
The corporation of Edinburgh put in a remonstrance against this injunction ; and even some of the bishops represented to the king that it were better to give the recusants time to come to their senses. Deferring to these persuasions, it was proclaimed in December 1624, that “his majesty, following his accustomed gracious inclination, rather to pity nor to punish the errors and faults of his people ; and by a loving and fatherly behaviour, patiently to abide some time of their amendment, and by gentle and fair means rather to reclaim them from their unsettled and evil-grounded opinions, nor by severity and rigour of justice to inflict that punishment whilk their misbehaviour and contempt merits.”—Thus influenced, his majesty was pleased to withdraw the offensive proclamation.2
We must not leave this story of political folly, tardily and imperfectly repented, without mentioning an occasion in which King James referred to these affairs in a confi dential communing with one of his English advisers, to whom he expressed himself in such wise that, looking to what he says of the past, and to that future which we know but he did not, an inquirer, knowing nothing else about him, would assuredly class him among the wisest of human rulers. We have this revelation from Bishop John Hacket, a worldly priest, in his Life of one of the most worldly prelates that ever cast the shadow of the self-seeker on his order. But Hacket was a faithful narrator, and his story
i Calderwood, vii. 622, 623.
is strongly supported by internal evidence. The occasion was the promotion of William Laud, “a learned man and a lover of learning," to the humble see of St David's. The king was not easily entreated to give Laud a step in power as well as rank, and told his reasons thus :
“The plain truth is, that I keep Laud back from all place of rule and authority because I find he hath a restless spirit, and cannot see when matters are well, but loves to toss and change, and to bring things to a pitch of reformation floating in his own brain, which may endanger the steadfastness of that which is in a good pass, God be praised. I speak not at random. He hath made himself known to me to be such a one ; for when, three years since, I had obtained of the Assembly of Perth to consent to five articles of order and decency in correspondence with this Church of England, I gave them promise, by attestation of faith made, that I would try their obedience no farther anent ecclesiastic affairs, nor put them out of their own way, which custom had made pleasing to them, with any new encroachment. Yet this man hath pressed me to invite them to a nearer conjunction with the liturgy and canons of this nation; but I sent him back again with the frivolous draught he had drawn. It seemned I remembered St Austin's rule better than he : 'Ipsa mutatio consuetudinis, etiam quæ adjuvat utilitate, novitate perturbat' (Ep. 118). For all this he feared not mine anger, but assaulted me again with another ill-fangled platform to make that stubborn Kirk stoop more to the English pattern. But I durst not play fast and loose with my word. · He knows not the stomach of that people ; but I ken the story of my grandmother, the queen-regent, that after she was inveigled to break her promise made to some mutineers at a Perth meeting, she never saw good day, but from thence, being much beloved before, was despised by her people.”
This utterance of almost prophetic sagacity is the more notable, that the time had not yet arrived when the sinister interest of Laud appears on the political horizon
i See chapter xxxvii.
like a star of evil omen, and that there was no public opinion to guide the king to his conclusion. In pressing Laud's claims, Williams was the agent of the favourite Buckingham; and the king yielded to his pressure, flinging him the parting taunt, “ Then take him to you, but, on my soul, you will repent it.” This was as true as the larger presage. The two prelates had a fierce contest, and Laud, who was the victor, would have brought his old patron to ruin had not his own troubles gathered round him.1
The religious squabbles which so indecorously disturbed the latter years of the reign of King James, were varied by an event announcing the germ of a new and healthy political growth. The creation of the province of Nova Scotia is usually associated solely with the fortunes of the Earl of Stirling and the extension of the dignity of Baronet to Scotland. It was in reality, however, the awakening of the national capacity for trade, manufacture, and colonisation. As an effort to accomplish immediate and mighty results in these shapes it was hardly successful; but it was an utterance of the national voice, proclaiming aspirations that, under happier conditions, were materially to influence the fate of the world. It was the earliest distinct manifestation of that national temperament and capacity which have done so much for trade and colonisation, and have furnished so many of those able men who reared the British empire of the East.
Sir William Alexander, afterwards Earl of Stirling, was known in his day as a traveller who had seen many lands, as a poet, and as a statesman. It will be presently seen that he had some claim to renown for his early services to what is now called political economy. By a royal charter, dated on the ioth of October 1621, he got a grant of the territory in North America called “New Scotland.” In the Latin charter the name was translated
? A Memorial offered to the great Deservings of John Williams, D.D., who some time held the places of Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England, Lord Bishop of Lincoln, and Lord Archbishop of York. By John Hacket, late Lord Bishop of Litchfield and Co. ventry. P. 64.
"Nova Scotia ;” and, oddly enough, that name was taken by the territory, and is retained by part of it at the present day. He was authorised to divide this territory into a thousand allotments, and to offer the dignity of a baronet to every adventurer who should take charge of an allotment.
The ulterior objects of the project will be seen in the following considerations. For centuries Scotsmen had found their own country too narrow for their energies and aspirations, and had become a byword for seeking their fortunes abroad and swarming over Europe. In return for maintenance-waxing often into wealth, rank, and power— the standard commodity rendered by them was the mastery of the sword. It was an ill-assorted bargain, for the free Scot had often to lend his hand in consolidating the power or exercising the cruelty of the despot. There was another field of exertion, worthier but narrower, in the republic of letters. But with the progress of civilisation, a new temptation had arisen to lure the Scot away from his own people: this was trade, and the many departments of business and skilled industry connected with its progressive advancement. In those districts where the Jew is to be found at the present day, the Scot was found in the seventeenth century. He discovered a good investment for his skill, sagacity, and endurance in Poland, Russia, and other territories occupied by tribes inapt at business and affairs. 1
sity of Bar
te andn essful; but claiminga matera
earliest erament: e anda se able
i William Lithgow, a wandering Scot of the seventeenth century, taking Poland on his way in one of his rambles, says : “ The soil is wonderful fruitful of corns, so that this country is become the granary of western Europe for all sorts of grain, besides honey, wax, flax, iron, and other commodities. And for auspiciousness, I may rather term it to be a mother and nurse for the youth and younglings of Scotland than a proper dame for her own birth, in clothing, feeding, and enriching them with the fatness of her best things, besides thirty thousand Scots families that live incorporate in her bowels. And certainly Poland may be termed in this kind the mother of her commons, and the first commencement of all our best merchants' wealth, or, at the least, most part of them.”—Lithgow's Travels, eleventh edition, p. 400. How different all this is from the present position of Scotland and Poland to each other!
I of thel Archbisher field 206