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house of Albany. To a people who had lived half a century under a loose and delegated government, and who had been accustomed to regard licence as liberty, it is no wonder that the punishment of crimes seemed quite a new and strange cruelty: that a salutary strength of government appeared despotism; that a necessary and legal taxation assumed the shape of tyrannic extortion. The commons, led by the nobles, absurdly regarded the cause of the latter as their own, and saw not that the king in crushing the aristocracy was doing the most essential service to his people. The plans of James were sagacious and profound, but sometimes incur the charge of temerity; and while they partake of the greatness of genius, they are limited by the want of a sufficient power in the Scottish monarchy for their complete execution. In a word, James is fully entitled to the uncommon character of a great sovereign in the arts of government and of peace. Pinkerton.
His actions proclaim him a prince of decisive, and sometimes even violent spirit. In war he was a valiant and popular leader; and surpassed his father in a marked attention to military discipline. Negligent of pomp, the equal of every soldier, he shared the mean repast of the march, confident that poison is seldom administered in vessels of wood, and reposing absolute faith on the love of his people. The power of his abili
JAMES II. OF SCOTLAND.
ties, the excellence of his intentions in peace, are best displayed by the laws of his reign, always the most instructive and valuable portion of history. His wisdom appears conspicuous, in his reverence for the counsels of the wise, in guiding his most important actions by the experience of Crichton, and the benign and patriotic prudence of Kennedy. The perdition of the aristocratic and tyrannic house of Douglas was to be a spirited exertion of justice to himself and to his people. But that any fixed plan yet existed, for the destruction of the aristocracy, seems a refined theory, incongruous with the ignorance and spirit and manners of the times; and is best confuted by the plain facts, that the families abased are ever remarkable for important crimes, and that the property and power, which were withdrawn from one house, were ever to be bestowed on another. Even when Louis XI. and Henry VII. were, towards the termination of this century, in countries of greater civilization, and political science, to humble the aristocracy, an unprejudiced reader will be ready to infer that the events proceed rather from chance and circumstances, and the rotation of society, than from design. As to the person of the second James, we only know that it was robust; and that a red tinge, which deformed one of his cheeks, gave him the vulgar appellation of James with the fiery face.
JAMES III. OF SCOTLAND, AND HIS BROTHERS.
HIs person was elegant, his mind weak. In attachment to favourites, in superstition, in love of retirement and literature, he not a little resembled James VI. The other chief features of his character were avarice, caprice, and a delight in architecture, music, and astrology, too violent to leave room for the duties of a monarch. His aversion to the severity of public business rendered the relaxation of his government obnoxious to the united evils of anarchy and tyranny; for, besides a fixed inclination to despotism, his impatience of slow and moderate measures prompted him to sudden acts of outrage; and his favourites oppressed the people, while the indolence of the king abandoned the reins of justice; and his lenity to the bad was cruelty to the good. His sceptre was so little stained with blood, that the fate of his brother may excite doubt or astonishment; yet oppression may proceed by rapid, though silent steps, while the fears and weakness of the sovereign constrain him to shrink from sanguinary violence.
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The character of James was strongly contrasted by those of his brothers, Alexander duke of Albany, and John earl of Mar. While the king, in solitary retirement, indulged his favourite studies of music, architecture, and astrology, he forgot the duties, amid the idle amusements of a monarch. The nobles, in the feudal ages, seldom visiting the court, except upon occasions of business or high festivals, and being ignorant of the arts in which James delighted, he had recourse to the conversation of those who excelled in them; but forgot the majesty of the sovereign so far as to make companions and favourites of men of mean origin; imitating Louis XI. who had raised his barber, Oliver le Dain, to great wealth and high dignities; but a stranger to the standing army, large revenue, and other resources, which enabled that king to crush the lofty and exalt the humble. Cochran, a mason or architect, and Rogers, the English master of music, were respectable names among the favourites of the Scottish king, when followed by those of Leonard, a smith; Hommil, a tailor; and Torpichan, a fencing master. The contempt and indignation of the nobility were extreme, when they beheld the public favour of the sovereign to those minions, joined with a pointed neglect of their haughty order.
Albany was a sensible and spirited prince, fond of martial exercises, of fine horses, and of attendants tall and vigorous. In person he was of a middle stature, strong, and well proportioned: his broad shoulders, and blooming yet stern countenance, engaged the praise of a martial age; and his known courage, if we believe an historian, was the only cause why the nobles did not rebel against James, while he lived in amity with this brother. Mar added superior stature to youth, beauty, and elegance of person: his gentle manners won every heart; nor did he yield to his brother in the favourite exercises of the nobility, or in his attention to the breed of his war horses: and in hunting, hawking, and every knightly pastime, his skill and grace were admired.
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As the king, in his flight, was about to pass the rivulet Bannockburn, at the hamlet of Miltown, a woman, who was drawing water, alarmed at his appearance and rapidity, fled, and left her pitcher, which startled the steed, or disordered his career, so that the unexpected rider fell from the saddle, and, oppressed with the weight of his armour, fainted away. A miller and his wife conveyed their unknown sovereign into the mill; and, to conceal the stranger from any pursuers, they covered him with a cloth. Some time after he resumed his senses; but perceiving himself much hurt, and very weak, he called for a priest to hear his confession: and to his blunt hosts, who inquired his name and quality, his impatience answered, " I was your king this morning." The woman upon this ran into the road, wringing her hands, and calling aloud for a priest to the king. It so chanced that some of the rebels were in the neighbourhood engaged in disorderly pursuit; and a priest, one of Lord Gray's followers, as is said, riding up, exclaimed, "I am a priest, where is the king?" Being conducted to the place, he knew his sovereign; and, kneeling, inquired if he thought he might survive, by the help of surgery; to which James answered, "I believe that I might; but let me have a priest