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JAMES THE FIRST.
such a quarter, no one, probably, would be disposed to refuse,) that where their lands had been leased out to a new tenant, they would not suddenly remove the poorer labourers, but would permit them to continue in possession for a year after the transaction. There can be little doubt that this benevolent enactment is to be considered as the first step towards that invaluable privilege which was, twenty years after, under the reign of James's successor, conferred on the body of the Scottish tenantry and labourers, which secured to them an undisturbed possession of their lands till the expiration of their lease, and which is familiarly known by the name of the real right of tack.
Yet, whilst the king showed himself thus solicitous for the real interests of the great body of his people, he kept a strict eye upon the growth of idleness, or unnecessary luxuries and refinements. Their occupation as artisans or tradesmen, their mode of travelling from place to place, their amusements, and even their dress--all were superintended and provided for with a minute vigilance; and some of the sumptuary laws passed at this time convey a curious picture of the costume of the times. For example, we find it provided, that n person under the rank of a knight is to wear clothes of silk, adorned with furs, or embroidered with gold or pearls. An exception was made in favour of aldermen, baillies, and counsellors in the magistracy, who were permitted to wear furred gowns, whilst others were enjoined to equip themselves in such plain and honest apparel as became their station. the natural effect of the increase of wealth amongst
the commercial classes, that the wives of the opulent burghers imitated, and probably exaggerated the dress of their superiors. Against this the law directed its anathema. “Long trains, rich hoods and ruffs, purfled sleeves, and costly curches of lawn, were henceforth banished from the wardrobe of a commoner's wife, and permitted only as part of the bravery of a gentlewoman."*
In the same Parliament something like an attempt is discernible for the establishment of a navy-one of the sources of national strength wherein the country was greatly deficient, and the want of which had been lately severely felt during the rebellion of the Lord of the Isles. All barons possessing lands within six miles of the sea were commanded to contribute towards the building of galleys for the public service, at the rate of one oar for every four marks of land—a proportion whose exact value it is now impossible to discover.
It is probable this enactment had some reference to the condition of the Highlands and Isles, where symptoms of disturbance again began to exhibit themselves, and whose fierce chieftains, in defiance of the recent examples, renewed their attempts to set the laws at defiance. Alan Stewart, Earl of Caithness, and Alexander Earl of Mar, had been stationed by James in Lochaber, for the purpose of keeping this important district in subjection. Caithness was a brave, Mar a distinguished soldier, and they commanded a force which was judged sufficient to keep its ground against any enemy likely to attack them. But Donald Balloch, a fierce Ketheran leader, nearly related to the Lord
* Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol. ii. pp. 17, 18.
of the Isles, assembled a formidable fleet and army, ran his galleys into the narrow sea which divides Morven from Lismore, disembarked his troops, and, breaking down suddenly upon Lochaber, attacked the royal forces at Inverlochy.
Such was the irresistible fury of the assault, that the disciplined squares of the Lowland warriors were broken by the wild hordes which threw themselves
Caithness, with sixteen of his personal retinue and many other knights, were left dead on the field. Mar was more fortunate, yet it was with difficulty that he effected his retreat with the remains of the army, which narrowly escaped being entirely cut to pieces. Lochaber now lay at the mercy of the victor, and, had Donald Balloch made an immediate advance, the consequences might have been serious; but this wild chief partook of the character of the northern pirates, who were commonly afraid of trusting themselves too far from their ships. He contented himself, accordingly, with the plunder of Lochaber, and, re-embarking in his galleys, retired at first to the Isles, and soon afterwards to Ireland.*
Some time previous to this, the queen was delivered of twin sons—a joyful event which, in the prospect it
gave of a successor to the throne, alleviated James's disappointment at the continued disturbances which arose in the north. The defeat of his army, however, and a desperate feud or private war which had broke out in Caithness between Angus Dow Mackay and Angus Murray, called for his immediate presence; and, with his wonted activity, he determined to lead an army against his
* Fordun a Hearne, vol. iv. p. 1289.
rebels in person.
Before he could reach the remoter Highlands, the rival armies of the two Ketheran chiefs had met in Strathnaver, a remote valley in Caithness, which is watered by the river Naver, and the conflict was maintained with so fierce and exterminating a spirit, that out of twelve hundred only nine men returned from the field. Amid such a butchery it cannot be ascertained, and the information is scarce worth seeking, to whom the victory belonged; but to the peaceable inhabitants of the country the consequences of the conflict were peculiarly grievous, by throwing it into a state of insecurity and terror. Every man who had lost a friend or a relative in the battle considered it a sacred duty to allow himself no rest till he had inflicted a bloody retaliation on those by whom he had fallen; and this feudal privilege, or rather duty, drew after it a series of spoliations, slaughters, and atrocities, which interrupted for the time all regular industry and improvement.
Determined that these things should have an end, James, notwithstanding the advanced season of the year, summoned his nobles with their feudal services to meet him at Perth; whence, having first held a Parliament, and raised supplies to defray the expenses of the expedition, he proceeded at the head of a force sufficient to overawe all opposition, to Dunstaffinch Castle. From this it was his determination to pass into the Western Isles, and inflict an exemplary punishment upon the piratic chiefs who had been lately concerned in the rebellion of Donald Balloch; but any further progress was found unnecessary. The royal standard had scarcely waved from the towers of Dunstaffinch,
when the monarch found himself surrounded by crowds of suppliant chieftains, who brought their men and their ships to his assistance; and, imploring pardon for a co-operation with a tyrant whose power it would have been death to resist, renewed their homage with every expression of devoted loyalty. James, however, as the price of his mercy, insisted that they should deliver over to him the principal offenders in the late disgraceful scenes of outrage and rebellion; and although many of these were their friends and vassals, disobedience to the demand was impossible. Three hundred robbers, men hardened in crime, and trained from their early years to blood and rapine, were brought, bound hand and foot, and delivered to the monarch. The spectacle of this ferocious troop, marching along, and guarded by the officers of the king, had a salutary effect in impressing upon the people of this district an idea of the certainty and severity of the law, which was not lessened when, with that inexorable justice which distinguished, and almost blemished his character, James ordered them all to immediate execution.*
Having by such methods—perhaps the only course which could have succeeded in this iron age-re-established the order and security of his northern dominions, the king found time to devote himself to more pacific cares.
His twin sons were baptized with great splendour and solemnity, the Earl of Douglas standing godfather. Of these boys the eldest was named Alexander, and died very young; but the second took the name of his
* Acts of Parliament, vol. ii. p. 20; Buchanan, b. X. C. 33–36.