It doesn’t matter if Edward I actually uttered the slur, “The trouble with Scotland is that it’s full of Scots.” Seeing the English king sneer when he makes that icy pronouncement in actor Mel Gibson’sOscar-winning movie Braveheart at the very least is art imitating life, for Longshanks (the lanky king’s nickname used behind his back) and his royal English successors for 700 years have shown disdain for the independence of the plucky Scots, those tortured souls who still manage to live north of Hadrian’s Wall.
(When Longshanks hauled Braveheart [William Wallace] to London in 1305 for treason, the defiant Scottish national hero refuted the charge at his “trial” by asking [inasmuch as he had never sworn loyalty to the English crown], “How could I be a traitor?”The answer by King Edward I was bloody and quick, if not that simple: Wallace was dragged through the streets of London, choked by a hangman’s rope, castrated, and [while still alive] disemboweled, then decapitated and hacked into quarters to be displayed as a warning to rebels in Stirling, Perth, Berwick and Newcastle.)
Less than a decade after the brutal murder of Sir William Wallace (who officially was Scotland’s Guardian), King Robert the Bruce led Scots at the pivotal Battle of Bannockburn, defeating the huge army of Edward II (Longshank’s effeminate but vicious son) and restoring the independence of Scotland, for which Wallace had died.
Freedom from English rule, however, did not mean freedom from English rulers. Despite the overwhelming Scots’ victory at Bannockburn and recapture of their border town Berwick five years later, Longshanks’ bisexual son continued dispatching his battered troops to plague the kingdom of Robert the Bruce. Scots finally warned Pope John that unless he condemned England’s activity and supported Scotland (which at that point in its history had been ruled by 113 consecutive, authentic Scots kings), the resultant blood of the two nations would be on his papal hands.
The pope agreed to the petition by the protesting Scots, the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath–ineffect, Scotland’s declaration of independence. (Four and a half centuries later, the Scottish call for freedom at Arbroath became the major inspiration for the American colonists’ Declaration of Independence at Philadelphia, in 1776; both Scots and Yanks had sought basic, God-given human rights and an end to England’s domination). By 1328, Edward III, England’s new monarch, recognized Robert the Bruce as his peer, and Scotland as an independent and politically equal nation.
From Battlefield to Marriage Bed
Separate-but-equal monarchies for big England and tiny Scotland (two nations sharing one island) produced peace for 160 years, until 1488, when Scotland’s King James III was assassinated after surrounding himself with advisors who foolishly favored the hiring of Englishmen to conduct Scots’ day-to-day government business. That royal political heresy, as bad as it was, was followed by another: James IV, son of the murdered Scots king, took as his wife the daughter of England’s King Henry VII. It was only a matter of time (101 years, to be exact) before the Union of the Crowns would occur, in 1603. The grandson of James IV (James VI) took the name James I of England–and before long evolved into a thoroughly English Englishman.
In yet another fit of Scottish royal foolishness, during his only visit to Edinburgh, 14 years after leaving permanently for London, James I condescendingly lectured fellow Scots on the “superiority of English civilization.” The next year he compounded his ineptitude by imposing bishops on Scotland’s Presbyterian Church in order to fold it into the Church of England.
Successor to King James I on the House of Stewart’s dual throne was his son, Charles I. He was as ham handed in tending his Scottish roots as his father had been. When King Charles tried to anglicize the Church of Scotland additionally by imposing a new prayer book, he sparked riots in Edinburgh. Charles immediately called the protesters “traitors.” Thus branded, hundreds of thousands of Scots passionately endorsed a sobering covenant at Greyfriars Church, swearing to die rather than choose their alienated king over their familiar church.
Seventeen years into his reign, Charles I was hopelessly out of touch not only with Scots but with his English subjects as well, and civil war erupted in England. Scottish Covenanters sided with the English rebels led by Oliver Cromwell, and war soon spilled into Scotland, with Scots killing Scots (the massacre at Glencoe of Clan MacDonald members in their sleep by pro-monarchist Clan Campbell being the most vivid and disgusting example of fratricide).
Eventually monarchy was restored in London, and its renewed threats to send armed troops into Scotland, combined with juicy bribes for co√?∆? ¬∂perative Scots (i.e., traitors), starved the flames of Scottish independence.
The England-Scotland merger was “permanently” sealed in 1707 by the Union of Parliaments, an act, however, that did not receive the two-thirds majority required for ratification in the Scottish Parliament. Riots erupted in Scotland, and English author and spy Daniel Defoe reported the Scots were “one hundred to one” against the abolition of their parliament. (Today, advocates of Scottish independence assert that the three-century-old treaty with England not only was never ratified legally but that its de facto status also is invalid because of numerous breaches of the treaty by the British Parliament, including the repeal of nine of the 25 original articles and material altering of five others.)
Hated by London, But Loved by the World
While the treatment of Scotland by British government has ranged from savagery to derision to mere condescension, the rest of the world long has admired small Scotland for its traits and amazing accomplishments. A 2001 book by Arthur Herman, a former history professor and coordinator of the Smithsonian Institution’s Western History Program, brashly epitomizes the pro-Scots perspective with this title: How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe’s Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It. (To underscore scholar Herman’s objectivity, the Minnesotan has nary a dram of Scots blood in his German-Norwegian veins–although recently he became the only American ever named to the prestigious Scottish Arts Council.)
States Herman: “Being Scottish turns out to be more than just a matter of nationality or place of origin or clan or even culture. It is also a state of mind, a way of viewing the world and our place in it. . . .” He asserts that Scots created the basic idea of modernity, transformed their own culture and society in the 18th Century, and carried it with them wherever they went. Concluding his paean, Herman notes:
“Obviously, the Scots did not do everything by themselves; other nations–Germans, French, English, Italians, Russians, and many others–have their place in the making of the modern world. But it is the Scots more than anyone else who have created the lens through which we see the final product. When we gaze on a contemporary world shaped by technology, capitalism, and modern democracy, and struggle to find our place as individuals in it, we are in effect viewing the world as the Scots did. . . .”
Scotland’s largest newspaper, The Scotsman observed in reviewing the book: “In other words, we are all Scots now.”
Little Scotland’s iconic role as a global force also was proclaimed by Victorian historian John Anthony Froude: “No people so few in number have scored so deep a mark in world history as the Scots have done.”
Scottish French and French Scots
Even the usually aloof French admire Scotland, so much so that in 1512 they signed a treaty by which all the French literally became Scots and vice versa! (Think of Maurice Chevalier wearing a kilt and the Duke of Atholl grooming poodles.) Although the “Auld Alliance” (as Scots called the centuries-long pact with their Gallic friends on the continent) was primarily a pincers ploy to keep the constantly probing English at bay, France nevertheless recognized its Scottish partners as giants in many fields other than those where military battles were fought–including literature, commerce, religion, philosophy, science, and banking.
Many years later, General Charles de Gaulle, greatest Frenchman of the 20th Century, visited wartime Edinburgh (in 1942, as leader-in-exile of his Nazi-occupied nation) and made a speech, later included in Volume One of his War Memoirs. Said the elegant, towering Charles of France:
“I do not think that a Frenchman could have come to Scotland at any time without being sensible of a special emotion–awareness of the thousand links, still living and cherished, of the Franco-Scottish Alliance, the oldest alliance in the world. . . In every combat where for five centuries the destiny of France was at stake, there were always men of Scotland to fight side by side with men of France. . . Frenchmen feel that there are no other people who ever have been more generous than yours with friendship. . . .”
Meantime, in Scotland, the British government maltreated and spurned most Scots, and applauded such cruel activity as “The Clearances.” That public/private policy drove Highlanders from their pathetic homes on rented land (crofts), replacing humanity with woolly, obedient sheep. Decades of this diaspora cost Scotland a huge, incalculable toll of too many of its best and brightest people, but their outflow infused British colonial India, Hong Kong and the West Indies with talent, and enabled Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. to move more quickly into world prominence. Scottish genes now swirl vigorously in an estimated and burgeoning 50 million souls in these other lands, ten times more than can be found in Mother Scotland’s Highlands and Lowlands.
Carrying Tartans to Swaddle America
The greatest beneficiary of Scotland’s export of humanity was the newborn United States. Consider its numbers of those with Scottish blood: Nine of the 56 signatories to the Declaration of Independence, nine governors of the 13 original states, and 15 of the first 50 U.S. Supreme Court justices. Other towering Scots-American in this period include John Paul Jones, father of the American Navy, which now far outdistances the once globally dominant British Royal Navy; Francis Scott Key, creator of the new nation’s anthem (“The Star-Spangled Banner”), and James Pollock, motto-maker of “In God We Trust” on all U.S. coinage.
In Scotland, there is one city called Edinburgh; in America, eight. In Scotland, there is one Aberdeen; in America, seven. Clans and families also affixed their names to countless cities and towns from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, called Angus, Cameron, Campbell, Chisolm, Douglas, Elgin, Gordon, MacLean, Ross, Stewart, Thom(p)son, etc.
Scots, who still are emigrating to America, are five times more likely to become millionaires in their new land than those coming to the U.S. from elsewhere, according to a study of wealth. Thomas Stanley and William Danko’s book The Millionaire Next Door analyzed ethnic backgrounds of the wealthiest members of U.S. society and discovered that while those of Scottish origin compose 1.7% of the United States’ population, they are 9.3% of its millionaires.
The hundreds of thousands of Scots in the 18th and 19th Centuries who were pushed from their homeland were far more likely to survive and thrive than those who remained in Scotland for arrival of the 20th Century, especially young males. Ready to confront those left-behind Scots mostly in their teens and 20s were two lethal, intersecting facts:
Scotsmen thus have lost inordinate amounts of their blood in London-directed wars. That almost genocidal sacrifice reached a height of injustice in World War I, when Scotland, with 10% of Britain’s population, suffered 20% of U.K. casualties. Nearly 150,000 Scots were killed, almost 3.3% of Scotland’s entire population, or 6.6% of its males. (If America, for example, were to incur that same percentage of casualties in Iraq, instead of currently losing just over a thousand troops [a shocking number to many observers] the U.S. already would have carried home more than nine million bodybags bearing its soldiers and marines.)
How Scotland Became a Conquered Province
Did Scottish leaders see coming the tragedy inherent in converting Scotland from a free country to a largely ignored political appendage of England? Certainly Andrew Fletcher did. He was deeply insightful when addressing Scotland’s Parliament in 1703, in opposition to the Act of Union. Looking back at the marriage of Scotland’s King James IV to the daughter of England’s King Henry VII that had occurred exactly a century earlier, he observed: “All of our affairs since the Union of Crowns have been managed by the advice of English ministers, and the principal offices of the kingdom filled with such men as the court of England knew would be subservient to their designs–by which means they had so visible an influence upon our whole administration that we have, from that time, appeared to the rest of the world more like a conquered province than a free, independent people.”
Iconic Robert Burns also was angered by England’s politically imposed control of Scotland by closing its Parliament, but he reserved his most bitter ire for Scottish nobles who had taken bribes. Burns’ pungent poetic summary:
We’re bought and sold for English gold, such a parcel o’ rogues in a nation.
It has been 400 years since the Union of Crowns, and 300 since the Act of Union that cemented Scotland’s status as a conquered province of England. Yet, strange things are happening that neither Andrew Fletcher, Karl Marx, nor King Longshanks and his royal successors could have predicted. After nearly three centuries’ absence, Scotland regained her Parliament in 1999. In a referendum two years earlier, Scots voted three to one to reconvene their own legislative body. Sovereignty, of course, remains in London, not Edinburgh–but for how much longer?
Ranging from far left to far right, more and more political parties in Scotland’s Parliament (and those struggling to enter the debating club by winning even one seat) are singing from the same page, at least when it comes to the matter of national independence (three of the six largest Scottish parties are pro-independence, two pro-Union, and one is federalist). Regardless of ideology, all parties advocating independence echo Andrew Fletcher’s patriotic and ancient complaint that Scotland is a conquered province and again must become a free nation. Typically offered as proofs:
“I think it does matter, and a growing number of Scottish industrialists, financiers and commentators seem to agree. They are saying that this steady hemorrhage of power and control is bad for Scotland’s economic health. It is producing what economist Neil Buxton called ‘the neutered-cat syndrome.’ There is no visible deterioration. The cat still walks, stretches and purrs–but it has lost its ability to reproduce, in company terms, to grow, adapt or innovate.”
Standing in the three-century-long shadow cast by Scotland’s Andrew Fletcher, Rosie closed his narration of growing industrial impotence by quoting the great parliamentarian: “So long as Scotsmen must go to the English court to obtain offices of trust or profit in this kingdom, those offices will always be managed with regard to the court and interest of England.” Added Rosie: “For ‘English court,’ read ‘English and foreign-owned corporation’ and you have as good a description as any of the fix in which we find ourselves. The question is: What do we do about it?”
Whatever Happened to “One World”?
America’s 40th President, Ronald Reagan, was no fan of the One-World Crowd, the globalists, internationalists and anti-nationalists who crowed that 1) a college professor’s fabricated, multicultural language (Esperanto) soon would replace earth’s challenging and ancient Tower of Babel, 2) a world without borders had arrived, and 3) all the lions (unilaterally, of course) would lie down with the lambs, amen. Instead, Reagan stood in divided Berlin and impudently, it seemed at the moment, ordered the Soviet emperor, “Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev!”
Shortly after the U.S. leader completed his eight years in office, the Wall was torn down, followed by collapse of the thoroughly rotten Communist foundation of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc. Even China’s Radical Reds would pale into a chic pink and embrace free markets to a degree once unimaginable. Instead of smashing the bourgeoisie, most Workers of the World became the bourgeoisie themselves.
In Geneva, the 136 flags flapping outside the UN’s Swissbased Palais des Nations were being crowded by new arrivals. Fifty new flagpoles had to be installed within a decade just to accommodate the colors of all the newly born or reborn nations mushrooming in Eastern Europe, Eurasia and Africa. Even the venerable Ethiopian nation, which traces its roots to an era a full millennium before the birth of Jesus Christ, was forced to cough up provincial Eritrea and let it become an independent state.
President Reagan’s greatest legacy to the world was to unleash the freedom of hundreds of millions of individuals by first unleashing the captive nations that had been smothered by superstates. The Reagan baton was firmly accepted 16 years later by President George W. Bush, son of Reagan’s Vice-President, George H.W. Bush. Said the latter Bush as the ringing centerpiece of his second presidential-inaugural speech, January 20, 2005:
“We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world” (emphasis added).
Five years earlier, in 1995, committed Scottish internationalist George Reid (a onetime International Red Cross executive, member of the Parliamentary Assemblies of the Council of Europe and Western European Union, and veteran Scottish National Party leader in Britain’s distant Parliament in London) felt compelled to look at the world’s rapidly changing landscape and point out an alarming, embarrassing political oddity:
“Amid this global return to the roots of nationhood, Scotland is the sole specter, the phantom at the feast, the only country in the world with its own administration, law, education, even its own national football team–but no parliament.”
Remembering Adam Smith and an Oath at Arbroath
Scotland after 300 years again has its parliament, but the law-making body has no sovereignty and can be ignored or dissolved by London’s whim. Members of the new parliament gingerly gather in their architecturally avant-garde chambers and debate independence, and most of these elected representatives of the Scots people publicly, at least, “demand” freedom for Scotland. Two unanswered and usually unspoken questions arise, however: 1) How will freedom be achieved, and 2) What will Scotland do with it?
Strangely, the second question needs answering first, for if an independent Scotland were to follow the discredited path of socialism and in addition adopt the European Union’s stylish creed of discrediting Christianity and nationalism, then Scots’ long-desired, long-deserved independence would ultimately become an unfunny farce, an oxymoron, a worthless charm on a pot-metal bracelet. (In fact, only one political party that will contest seats in the next  Scottish parliamentary election is “right of center,” √?∆? ¬† la the United States’ 150-year-old, dominant Republican Party. The fledgling Scottish Enterprise Party favors total independence from both London and EU hotbed Brussels, free enterprise at home, traditional moral and cultural values, and a strong military alliance with the U.S.-led NATO.)
From the distant perspective of Scots-Americans (who, having consumed freedom all their lives, very well may support Scotland’s independence more strongly even than the Scots themselves), the greatness of Scotland’s history and human character must not be ignored or minimized by those who seek freedom for the tormented nation.
The natural riches of Scotland inspire universal awe. They include magnificent mountains and glens, great reserves of energy (oil, gas, coal, falling water), potentially huge fisheries, mysterious forests, ancient sights at every turn, and relatively warm ocean currents that moderate winter’s harshness at that far-northern latitude. Yet, the greatest of all the nation’s riches are the uniquely spirited Scots themselves. They not only invented the modern world, as noted, but they absolutely have no need or reason to reinvent themselves for the modern world, especially the regional force of a covetous, soulless European Union, a sterile bureaucracy united only by its currency and its arrogant rejection of the Continent’s historic Christian roots.
Among other things, free people require free legislators, free chief executives, free courts, free markets, secure borders, a monetary system safe from manipulation, cultural integrity, human decency, escapable alliances, and the right to acknowledge the God of their fathers. The Swiss, Icelanders and Norwegians know and live this philosophy quite well, and all three proud little countries thrive without embracing the one-size-fits-all EU.
Scots who want their freedom returned have every right to demand it, and they can find no better leader than their own Adam Smith. A dead political genius, he is a more able guide for Scotland’s pending renaissance than are those living, cutting-edge, 21st Century sages who, with straight faces, would link and entrust Scotland’s independence to yet another omniscient master, but this time in a different foreign capital, Brussels instead of London.
Adam Smith’s advice from Theory of Moral Sentiments is a classic blueprint for Scots: “Man was made for action, and to promote by the exertion of his faculties such changes in the external circumstances both of himself and others as may seem most favorable to the happiness of all.”
Scots also should reread the simple words of their forebears’ Declaration at Arbroath: “. . . as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule.”
To which I, a Scots-American, firmly add: “Aye!”
Sign up to the Human Events newsletter