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In perseverance, in self-command, in forethought, in all the virtues which
conduce to success in life, the Scots have never been surpassed.—Macaulay.




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The all but universal favour with which the press and the public have received the "History of England," has acted upon us with all the force of motive, in proceeding with Scotland, as an appropriate sequel. It is ever to be deplored that the English and Scottish nations, which Heaven evidently designed from the first to be one, should so long and so cruelly have waged war with each other. In perpetuating the remembrance of those national contests in the page of history, we have been careful to do nothing more than simply give a record of facts. We deny not, that for manifold ages, the historical life of Scotland was less important, that the sources of information touching those earlier periods, are scanty and imperfect, and that much which we know has come down to us in the ever-fluctuating tide of tradition. Still we did not feel ourselves at liberty to reject that tradition, or to treat the early history of our country as nothing better than a cunningly-devised fable. A diamond of the first water may be encrusted with the coarsest earth, and therefore worthy of all the labour connected with freeing it from its outer incrustation. We do not say that we have succeeded in rescuing the primitive history of our country from all obscurity and uncertainty.

From Fordun, the author of "The Scotichronicon," who flourished towards the end of the fourteenth century, down to Chalmers, whose "History of Caledonia" is the fruit of the most laborious and indefatigable researches, every writer had failed to dispel the darkness which hung over this earlier period. Nor have subsequent writers been much more successful. Much has been done to separate the authentic history from the mass of fiction with which it is mixed up, but still a deep obscurity shades and shrouds the primitive condition of the Scottish people. We have therefore been careful to submit every statement to the most rigid and sifting criticism, and have given to our readers only what we conceive to be a nearer approximation to the truth.

Our chief aim has been to trace the progress of civilization, industry, education, and social improvement. We have been anxious to bring into light the manly struggle of the people for freedom and independence, rathejr than the intrigues of courts and cabinets; to show the advancement of the peaceful arts, rather than the strides of conquest and the spoils of war; to set forth the workings of a free and sj)iritual Christianity, rather than the platform of any particular ecclesiastical polity; believing with the illustrious Schleiermacher, that " whatever makes its appearance in any department of history as an ndividual momentum, is capable of being viewed either as a sudden organization, or as a gradual development and further progress." All national life and progress has its origin in the individual mind. The advancement of our whole species is dependent on a few master-spirits. Nor are these confined to any one rank or condition of life. Just as a star of the first magnitude may He so far down in the field of space as to challenge the strongest vision to discern it, till aided by the discoveries of a riper science, so the man of his age, whose appearance is to give direction, and purpose, and aim, to the times in which he lives, may emerge from the deepest shades of obscurity. But for the principle of supreme selfishness, and the destructive tendency of all class-interests, how different would have been the history of nations. Had not the people in every successive age been crushed and trodden down, the historic life of the world would have flowed in another channel. Events would now seem to indicate that into this other channel it is being conducted by a power omnipotent and irresistible, and in this it will flow till time shall be no more.

Intense interest attaches to the history of Scotland. It has in it some of the most stirring periods and events in the progress of years, ajid amid the developments of our humanity. It is deserving of the deeper study of all classes, and especially of the people, that they may learn how the generations which preceded them, worked their way through untold difficulties to a proud pre-eminence; and that they may be stimulated to press forward in the race of social, intellectual, and moral improvement, and so preserve their advanced position among the nations, for all that is pure in virtue, independent in liberty, and exemplary in character.

October, 1851.

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