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THE

EDINBURGH REVIEW,

JANUARY, 1876.

No. CCXCI.

ART. I.-1. Memoir of Sir James Dalrymple, First Viscount Stair. A Study in the History of Scotland and Scotch Law during the Seventeenth Century. By J. G. MACKAY, Advocate. Edinburgh: 1873.

2. The Stair Annals. By JOHN MURRAY GRAHAM. Edinburgh: 1875.

3. William Carstares. A Character and Career of the Revolutionary Epoch. By ROBERT HERBERT STORY, Minister of Rosneath. London: 1874.

SCOTLAND has not been fertile in great statesmen. During

what may be called the kingly period of her historyfrom the accession of Robert II. to the death of James V.-the one thing essential to the well-being of the people, and to the defence of the country against English invasion, was to curb an overgrown, turbulent, and treacherous nobility; a task to which no man was found equal. At the great uprising of the Reformation a wider field was opened; nobler ends came into view. Knox, though not in the strict sense of the word a statesman, yet did the work of the greatest: he awoke a national life; he called into political existence the middleclasses of his countrymen. From various causes Scotland, in his time, took a place in the politics of Europe out of all proportion to her real power. But her statesmen, with the single exception of Murray, were unworthy of their opportunities. Maitland of Lethington has a great but undeserved reputation. He was a man, as Mr. Burton has shown, rather crafty than wise; he seems to have studied the subtleties of Italian politicians beyond the powers of his own brain; he fought with armour which he had not proved, and the result of all his tortuous devices was hopeless failure.

VOL. CXLIII. NO. CCXCI.

B

On the accession of James to the English throne Scotland sank into insignificance and degradation. From this she was, for a brief season, raised, not by any efforts of Scotch statesmanship, but by the wholesome stimulus of the tyranny of the Stuarts, wanton with prosperity; and strong, as they thought, with the strength of England. The Covenant, the abjuration of prelacy by the Assembly of 1638, the invasions of England, were bold and vigorous measures. It is not too much to say that to the conduct of Scotland at this juncture England probably owed her freedom. But the end was unworthy of such beginnings. The fervour of popular feeling which had supported Knox blazed up again for a time, but could not long endure. The national life of the Reformation period had died away. The people had been crushed by civil war, by poverty, by the utter misrule which followed upon the Union of the Crowns. The gentry of that nation,' writes one of Cromwell's officers, have such influence over the commonalty that they can lead them which way they please.' Unhappily no one was found who could lead them wisely. The needy nobles and mercenary soldiers who led the Scottish army into England were animated by no higher motive than a love of English quarters and English money; the spirit of resistance to ecclesiastical tyranny, which at first stimulated the people, soon degenerated under evil guidance into a fierce intolerance, a determination to impose Presbyterianism upon all men, which found its fitting conclusion in the acceptance of Charles II. as a Covenanted King. During the Usurpation Scotland was preserved from native rule; under the restored authority of her native princes,' the wisdom of Ahithophel could have availed nothing to any upright Scottish politician, except in so far as it might have counselled the necessity of a speedy retreat to Holland.

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At the Revolution dawned a day bright with a fairer promise for Scotland than for any portion of the British dominions. The oppression from which she was then set free had been greater than the oppression of England; she could look to the future with a better hope than the most sanguine could entertain for Ireland. Unlike the case of England, so utter had been the disregard of law, so entire the overthrow of every cherished institution, that the whole constitutional fabric had to be re-constructed. Unlike the case of Ireland, enmities of race and creed were not so deeply rooted as to render such re-construction hopelessly beyond the reach of wisdom and honest purpose. Again the leaders, by position, of the Scottish people failed in the time of need. If, as Mr.

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