An Hardy and Intrepid Race of Men

John Slezer's engraving of Edinburgh Castle, c.1693 showing the Scottish Union Flag being flown above the Royal apartments.
John Slezer’s engraving of Edinburgh Castle c.1693, showing the Scottish Union Flag being flown above the Royal apartments.

SCOTLAND, considering its limited population and extent, has made a distinguished figure in History. No country, in modern times, has produced Characters more remarkable for learning, valour, or ability, or for knowledge in the most important arts both of peace and of War; and though the Natives of that formerly independent, and hitherto unconquered, kingdom have every reason to be proud of the name of Britons, which they have acquired since the Union in 1707, yet still they ought not to relinquish, on that account, all remembrance of the Martial Atchievements, the Characteristic Dress, or the Language, the Music, or the Customs of their Ancestors. If in all these respects they were to be completely assimilated to the English, Scotland would become in a manner blended with England, whilst its inhabitants at the same time could claim no peculiar merit, from old English valour, virtue, literature, or fame; whereas if they consider themselves not only as Britons, but as Scotchmen, there are many circumstances, connected with the more remote, and even the modern periods of their history, which they can recollect with enthusiasm, as the Songs of their Ancient Bards;– the Tales of their former times, when FINGAL conquered, and OSSIAN sung his praises,– their determined resistance to the Roman arms;– their reiterated victories over the Danes, who were formerly the terror of the North;– the renowned atchievements of a WALLACE, a DOUGLAS, and a BRUCE, and other heroes, in their contests with the English, the most warlike nation then existing;– their valour in the service of France, of Holland, and of other Powers;– the share they had in the immortal Victories of the great Gustavus;– the manner in which they have distinguished themselves in more recent times, as at Fontenoy, at Quebec, on the banks of the Ganges and of the Nile, and on so many other important occasions;– their contributing in so material a degree to the revival of Learning in Europe;– their having been the means of establishing some of the most famous Universities on the Continent;– the many celebrated Authors and Artists which Scotland has successively produced;– in short, in the words of a distinguished modern poet, the Scots may be accounted

… a manly race,
Of unsubmitting spirit, wise, and brave;
… thence of unequal bounds
Impatient, and by tempting glory borne
O’er every land,– for every land, their life
Has flow’d profuse, their piercing genius plann’d,
And swell’d the pomp of peace, their faithful toil.

Or if less partial authority be required, than the testimony of a Scottish Poet, let us recollect, that the celebrated Earl of Chatham, on the 11th of January, 1766, expressed himself in the British Senate, when the Military Services of the Scots were under discussion, in the following terms:

I sought for Merit wherever it was to be found. It is my boast that I was the first Minister who looked for it, and found it in the Mountains of the North! I called it forth, and drew into your service, an hardy and intrepid race of men! men who, when left by your jealousy, became a prey to the artifices of your enemies, and had gone nigh to have overturned the State in the war before the last. These men, in the last war, were brought to combat on your side; they served with fidelity, as they fought with valour, and conquered for you in every part of the world.

Perhaps the best mode by which the Scots may be enabled to keep up that National Spirit, which was formerly so conspicuous, that “fier comme un Ecossais,” became proverbial on the Continent, is occasionally to meet in that Garb, so celebrated as having been the dress of their Celtic Ancestors, and on such occasions, at least, to speak the emphatic Language, to listen to the delightful Music, to recite the Ancient Poetry, and to observe the peculiar customs of their country.

— An Account of the Highland Society of London, 1813.

So Full of Misery and Misgovernment

From hence in two days (only by the help of tydes, no wind stirring), we plyed it sadly up the river, and the three and twentieth of May we cast anchor before James Towne, where we landed, and our much grieved Governour first visiting the church caused the bell to be rung, at which (all such as were able to come forth of their houses) repayred to the church where our Minister, Maister Bucke made a zealous and sorrowful Prayer, finding all things so contrary to our expectation, so full of misery and misgovernment. After service our Governour caused me to read his commission, and Captaine Percy (then President) delivered up unto him his commission, the Old Patent, and the Councell Seale.

William Strachey on the precarious state of the Virginia Colony in 1610.