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him a very different scene. The royal authority, never great, was now contemptible.' The ancient patrimony and revenues of the crown were almost totally alienated. During his long absence, the name of a king was little known, and less regarded. The license of many years had rendered the nobles independent. Universal anarchy prevailed. The weak were exposed to the rapine and oppression of the strong. In every corner some barbarous chieftain ruled at pleasure, and neither feared the King nor pitied the people.
James was too wise a prince to employ open force to correct such inveterate erils. Neither the men nor the time would have borne it. He applied the gentler and less offensive remedy of laws and statutes. He gained the confidence of his people by many wise laws, tending to re-establish order, tranquillity, and justice in the kingdom. He endeavoured to secure these blessings to his subjects, while he discovered his intention to recover those possessions of which the crown had been unjustly bereaved. The patience and inactivity of the nobles seconded the royal efforts. The splendour and presence of a king, to which they had been long unaccustomed, inspired reverence. James was a prince of great abilities, and conducted his operations with much prudence. He was in friendship with England, and closely allied with the French King. He was adored by the people, who enjoyed unusual security and happiness under his administration.
Proceeding too far, however, in his favourite plan of humbling the nobles, they united against him, and conspiracies were formed against his life. Informed of this, he fled to a monastery near Perth, and was soon after murdered there in the most cruel manner. It was the misfortune of James that his maxims and manners were too refined for the age in which he lived. IIappy had he reigned in a kingdom more civilized, his love of peace, of justice, and of elegance, would have rendered his schemes successful, and instead of his perishing because he attempted too much, a grateful people would have applauded and seconded his efforts to reform and improve them.
SUCCEEDED his father when a minor. During his minority he was assisted by Crichton, who had been the minister of James I. aided by Sir Alexander Livingston. Jealousy and discord were the efiects of their conjunct authority; and each of them, in order to strengthen himself, bestowed new power and privileges upon the great men whose aid he courted. While the young Earl of Douglas, encouraged by their divisions, erected a sort of independent principality within the kingdom ; and forbidding his vassals to acknowledge any authority but his own, he created knights, appointed a privy council, named officers civil and military, assumed every ensign of royalty but the title of king, and appeared in public with a magnificence more than royal.
Crichton, the principal agent in the scene, did 210t relinquish the design of humbling the nobles, and he endeavoured to inspire his pupil with the same sentiments. But what James had attempted to effect slowly, and by legal mçans, his son and Crichton pursued with the impetuosity natural to Scotsmen, and with the fierceness peculiar to that age. Douglas having contemned the authority of an infant prince, was by Crichton decoyed to an interview in the castle of Edinburgh, and both he and his brother murdered. The next earl was, by
the promises of the young king, led into the same snare, who ventured to meet him in Stirling castle. Urged by the king to abandon the confederacy of the nobles, he obstinately refused; then the king drew his dagger, and exclaimed, “If you will not, this shall," and stabbed him to the heart. An action so unworthy of a king filled the nation with astonishment and horror. The earl's vassals ran to arms. Both armies met at Abercorn. That of the earl, composed chiefly of borderers, was far superior to that of the king's, and had not an accommodation taken place, a single battle must, in all probability, have decided whether the house of Stewart or of Douglas was henceforth to possess the throne of Scotland.
James did not suffer this circumstance to pass unimproved; he procured the consent of parliament to laws more advantageous to the prerogative, and more subversive of the aristocracy, than were ever obtained by any former or subsequent monarch of Scotland. Each of these statutes undermined some of the great pillars on which the power of aristocracy rested. During the remainder of his reign, this prince pursued the plan which he had begun with the utmost vigour; and had not a sudden death, occasioned by the splinter of a cannon which burst near him at the siege of Roxburgh, prevented his progress, he wanted neither . genius nor courage to perfect it; and Scotland might, in all probability have been the first kingdom in Europe which would have seen the sub version of the feudal system,
DISCOVERED no less eagerness than his father or grandfather to humble the nobles ; but far inferior to either of them in abilities and address, he adopted a plan extremely impolitic, and his reign was disastrous as well as his end tragical. He both hated and feared his nobles, kept them at an undue distance, and bestowed every mark of confidence and affection upon a few mean persons of professions so dishonourable, as ought to have rendered them unworthy of his presence. Shut up with these in his castle at Stirling, he seldom ap-. peared in public, and amused himself with architecture, music, and other arts, which were then little esteemed. The nobles beheld the power and favour of these minions with indignation. attachment to favourites rendered him every day more odious, and conspiracies were forming to deprive him of his crown.
The danger of a foreign invasion obliged James to implore the assistance of those whom he had neglected. They took the field; but with a stronger disposition to redress their own grievanoes than to annoy the enemy, and with a fixed resolution of punishing those minions whose insolence they could no longer tolerate: this resolution they executed in the camp near Lauder, where they forcibly entered the apartment of their sovereign, seized all the favourites except one Ramsay, whom they could not tear from the king, in whose arms he took shelter, and without any
form of trial hanged them instantly over a bridge. Among the most remarkable of those who had engrossed the king's affection, were Cochran a mason, Homilla a tailor, Leonard a smith, Rogers a musician, and Torfifan a fencing-master. So des
picable a retinue discovers the capriciousness of James's character, and accounts for the indigna. tion of the nobles.
James disbanded his army, shut himself up in the castle of Edinburgh, and once more abandoned himself to the guidance of favourites. James became fonder of retirement than ever; and sunk in indolence or superstition, or attentive only to amusements, devolved his whole authority upon his favourites. So many injuries provoked the nobles to take arms to deprive James of a crown of which he had discovered himself to be so unworthy. Roused by this danger, the king took the field, and encountered them near Bannockburn; but the valour of the borderers soon put his troops to flight, and he himself was slain in the pursuit. Suspicion, indolence, immoderate attachment to favourites, and all the vices of a feeble mind, are visible in his whole conduct ; but the character of a cruel and unrelenting tyrant seems to be unjustly affixed to him by our historians.
The nobles endeavoured to atone for their treatment of the father, by their loyalty and duty towards the son. He was instantly placed upon the throne, and the kingdom united in acknowledging his authority. He was naturally generous and brave; he felt in an high degree all the passions which animate a young and noble mind; he loved magnificence, he delighted in war, and was eager to obtain fame. During his reign, the ancient enmity between the king and nobles almost entirely ceased; he envied not their splendour, because it contributed to the ornament of his court ; nor did he dread their power, which he considered as the