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The values of the Lowlands exercised a growing monopoly of Scottish
policy and values. This process continued apace throughout the Wfteenth
and sixteenth centuries. James IV™s forfeiture of the MacDonald Lord-
ship of the Isles in 1493 was aimed at integrating the Highlands more
tightly within the Scottish kingdom. However, the policy backWred. The
destruction of the Lordship of the Isles created a power vacuum which a
remote central government could not Wll, and, as a result, the Highlands
became if anything more anarchic. From the late medieval era the High-
lander became a stock Wgure of Scottish satire, the oddity of his plaid garb
attracting ridicule, his poverty winning only contempt and his achieve-
ments presumed to be limited to thieving and disorder.À

¦ G. Barrow, Robert Bruce and the community of the realm of Scotland (1965: 3rd edn,
Edinburgh, 1988). For the early history of Scotland, see W. Ferguson, Scotland™s relations
with England (Edinburgh, 1977), chs. 1“2; M. Lynch, Scotland: a new history (London,
1991), chs. 2“8.
  John of Fordun, Chronica gentis Scotorum (ed. W. F. Skene, Edinburgh, 1871, with
companion transln, 1872), ch. 9; C. Withers, Gaelic Scotland: the transformation of a culture
region (London, 1988), pp. 3“4; Lynch, Scotland, pp. 67“8.
À T. C. Smout, A history of the Scottish people 1530“1830 (1969: London, 1972), p. 40.
The Gaelic dilemma in early modern Scotland 125

The ever-intensifying association of the political nation with the Low-
lands was reXected in the names given to Scotland™s languages. The
Lowland vernacular was known throughout the later medieval period as
Inglis; the Wrst extant reference to it as Scottis dates from 1494. Gaelic had
been the lingua Scotica or Scotorum. Now ˜Scots™ began to be appropriated
by Lowlanders as a description of their language. There was an exchange
of terminology and with it the ethnic aYliation of language. By the
sixteenth century, Gaelic was increasingly described in alien terms as the
Irish tongue “ lingua Hibernica or Erse.Ã
Yet, a growing distance from the culture, language and values of the
Highlanders was not matched by the emergence of an identity which
reXected the anti-Gaelic antipathies of the Lowland nation. Indeed, the
identiWcation of the Scottish nation and its institutions with the Dalriadic
Scots made by the late medieval chroniclers was consolidated and re-
inforced by two gifted humanist mythmakers, Hector Boece (c. 1465“
1536) and George Buchanan (1506“82). The humanist Boece celebrated
the civic virtue of the ancient Scots and grafted on to the history of the
Dalriadic monarchy a ˜mirror of princes™ theme. On the other hand,
although Buchanan, a supremely gifted Latinist and pioneering philol-
ogist whose history of Scotland remained the standard version until the
Enlightenment, rejected the Gathelus“Scota legend, he saw great ideol-
ogical potential in the Fergusian myth of the settlement and early political
establishment of the Dalriadic Scots in Britain, which he glossed with a
Calvinist theory of resistance. Buchanan claimed that the monarchy was
anciently elective, and that the earliest Gaelic kings had been held ac-
countable by the notables of the political nation for any deviations into
tyranny, and deposed. He argued that in 330 BC the phylarchi, or clan
chiefs, had elected the Wrst king of the Scots on mainland Britain, Fergus
MacFerquhard. Buchanan™s theory of an ancient elective monarchy was
also built on the Gaelic practice of tanistry, under whose inheritance rules
a successor was appointed from within the kinship unit or derbWne, a
system quite unlike personal hereditary succession by primogeniture. In
this way, a historical memory of this Gaelic practice was embellished as a
prescriptive ancient elective constitution of the Scottish kingdom, or ius
regni. The very Wrst transfer of the monarchy, the succession to Fergus
MacFerquhard by his brother Feritharis rather than by either of his sons,
Mainus or Ferlegus, Buchanan interpreted as an example of election. No
longer simply a national origin legend legitimating Scottish sovereignty

à D. Murison, ˜The historical background™, in A. J. Aitken and T. McArthur (eds.),
Languages of Scotland (Association for Scottish Literary Studies, Edinburgh, 1979), p. 8.
However, for the continuing importance of Gaelic into the early seventeenth century
(despite its relative decline), see Ferguson, Scotland™s relations, p. 98.
126 The three kingdoms

and independence, the history of the Gaels had evolved into a political
myth validating a radical interpretation of the Scottish constitution.•
The familiar contours of the Gaelic past were also to be exploited by
royalist historians and commentators who disagreed with Buchanan™s
politics. Adam Blackwood (1539“1613) reversed one of Buchanan™s
central arguments for an elective monarchy. Buchanan had claimed in De
iure regni apud Scotos that the clan chiefs who had Wrst elected Fergus to be
king of the Scots had themselves been elected by their followers. Accord-
ing to Blackwood, these clan chiefs constituted a model of unconstrained
patriarchal authority, whose hereditary powers had been transferred in-
tact to Fergus I. Blackwood invested great signiWcance in the ancient
Dalriadic phase of Scotland™s history. He argued that not until the acces-
sion of King Gregory in AD 875, 1,200 years after the foundation of the
monarchy, were Scottish kings to be bound by a coronation oath: ˜ante
Gregorii tempora Scotiae reges sacramento non erant obnoxii™.’
The Reformation exacerbated the division between Gaeldom and the
rest of Scotland. Indeed, according to Victor Durkacz, ˜linguistic repres-
sion sprang from the Reformation™.“ Given that the church had been a
genuinely national institution bridging the divisions of Highlands and
Lowlands, the Reformation removed a vital point of contact. Henceforth
the Highlands “ perceived as a lost world of Catholicism and superstition
“ became a prime target of the Lowland Protestant mission. The Union of
the Crowns also brought the opportunity to co-ordinate action against
the Gaelic societies of Ireland and the Highlands. The Union of the
Crowns led to the paciWcation of the Borders; from a tense frontier zone
they became the Middle Shires of the British dual monarchy. This led to a
greater focus on the Highlands as the source of disorder in Scotland.
Moreover, the transformation of the Lowland economy, which involved
the conversion of its feudal tenures into a system of emphyteusis based on
commercial feu-ferm holdings, stood in stark contrast to the stagnant
militarised Celtic feudalism and subsistence farming of the Highlands.“
From the late sixteenth century a stronger antipathy to the Highlands
had manifested itself in public policy. James VI abandoned the traditional
reliance on loyal clans to preserve order in the Highlands, sponsoring a

• A. Duncan, ˜Hector Boece and the medieval tradition™, in Scots antiquaries and historians
(Abertay Historical Society, Dundee, 1972); R. Mason, ˜Kingship and commonweal:
political thought and ideology in Reformation Scotland™ (University of Edinburgh Ph.D
thesis, 1983); I. D. McFarlane, Buchanan (London, 1981), pp. 392“440; A. Williamson,
Scottish national consciousness in the age of James VI (Edinburgh, 1979); J. H. Burns, The
true law of kingship: concepts of monarchy in early modern Scotland (Oxford, 1996), chs. 2, 6.
’ Adam Blackwood, Apologia, ch. 26, in Blackwood, Opera omnia (Paris, 1644), p. 134.
“ V. Durkacz, The decline of the Celtic languages (Edinburgh, 1983), p. 1.
“ Smout, Scottish people, pp. 43, 103“4, 127.
The Gaelic dilemma in early modern Scotland 127

˜concerted programme™ of legislation in 1597 whose centrepiece was a
scheme of plantation. The Highlands were to be colonised by Low-
landers, with royal burghs established in Lewis, Lochaber and Kintyre. In
addition, Highland landholders would be required to produce their title
deeds, to pledge security for crown rents and to ensure the maintenance
of good behaviour among their kin and retainers. Between 1597 and 1609
there was a substantial change of strategy, though not of policy objectives.
Colonisation was abandoned as impractical, and in its stead there
emerged a more realistic approach to the extirpation of the Gaelic way of
life. In 1608 Bishop Andrew Knox and Lord Ochiltree led a state-
sponsored raid in which several refractory Highland chiefs were captured
and then released on a bond which stipulated their co-operation with the
authorities. These conditions became the basis of the Statutes of Iona of
1609, a body of legislation which outlawed the carrying of arms, forced
chiefs to establish kirks and made illegal the patronage of bards. The
Statutes involved an assault on Gaelic cultural diVerence as well as upon
disorder. For example, the sixth article enjoined the education of the
eldest son of Highland gentry and yeomen in the Lowlands, and in 1616 a
further measure promoted the establishment of schools, in large part to
assist the cause of Gaelic™s extirpation.” Yet, the hammer of the High-
landers, James VI and I (1566“1625), showed no reluctance to base his
political theories on the ancient Scots of Dalriada (though, reacting
against the historical lessons of Buchanan, his boyhood tutor, he de-
scribed Dalriadic government as an absolute, rather than elective, mon-
archy).¦»
This Gaelic dilemma intensiWed in the course of the seventeenth cen-
tury when the ancient Fergusian constitution adumbrated by Buchanan
dominated political culture, whether as a model for radical presbyterian
aspirations, or target of royalist reinterpretation. On the other hand, the
century also witnessed the enactment and implementation of anti-Gaelic
legislation and policies in kirk and state. Yet the region which in practice
constituted the periphery of the Scottish nation, and was treated accord-
ingly in the public policy of an anti-pluralist centre, continued “ as its
recognised aboriginal heartland “ to deWne Scotland™s identity and the
historical legitimacy of its institutions.

” Durkacz, Decline, p. 5; D. Stevenson, Alasdair MacColla and the Highland problem in the
seventeenth century (Edinburgh, 1980), p. 6; G. Donaldson (ed.), Scottish historical docu-
ments (Edinburgh, 1970), pp. 171“5, 178“9; Withers, Gaelic Scotland, pp. 112“14;
J. L. Campbell, Gaelic in Scottish education and life (Saltire Society, 2nd edn, Edinburgh,
1950), p. 115.
¦» King James VI and I, The trew law of free monarchies (1598), p. 73, and Basilicon doron
(1599), p. 24, both in King James VI and I, Political writings (ed. J. P. Sommerville,
Cambridge, 1994).
128 The three kingdoms

The politics of the Kirk
From the Reformation until the middle of the seventeenth century Scot-
tish religious identity was not based on the same Dalriadic past which
increasingly deWned the temporal nationhood. It is not easy to explain the
ideological disjunction between church and nation. Certainly, it would
have been possible to construct a powerful ecclesiastical identity centred
on the Dalriadic ethnie. The resources available included most obviously
the legacy of Columba and Iona. Nevertheless the Reformation directed
Scots towards a British rather than an ethnocentric identity. The fact that
the English Reformation had taken place some thirty years before Scot-
land™s break with Rome encouraged Scottish Reformers to address the
idea of Britain. The inXuence of the English Bible in Scotland reinforced
this tendency, as did the Union of the Crowns (1603) which stimulated a
Scoto-British strain of apocalyptic discourse. The Covenanting idea, so
central to the Scottish Reformed tradition, also hindered the expression
of an indigenous religious identity, for it led Scottish theologians and
religious propagandists away from a historical presentation of the vicis-
situdes of true Christianity in Scotland. Covenanting focused rather on
contemporary Scotland as an antitype of Old Testament Israel, a nation
forging a compact with God to reform and renew its church and the whole
moral aspect of its commonweal.¦¦
Nevertheless, the history of the ancient Dalriadic church was to be
useful in fending oV a perceived Anglican imperialism. Following the
Union of the Crowns of 1603 the Stuarts attempted to impose a measure
of religious conformity throughout the realms of their multiple mon-
archy.¦  This threatened Scots of both an episcopalian and a presbyterian
bent. Those Scots committed to a presbyterian form of discipline had
obvious reasons for emphasising the freedom of the Kirk, while the
episcopal leadership of the Scottish church was equally concerned to
preserve the autonomy of a national Scots episcopalian church from the
metropolitan claims of York and Canterbury. Together presbyterians and
episcopalians produced diVerent but analogous defences of an unassimil-
able Scottish ecclesiastical tradition. In religious as in civil aVairs, the best
ideological guarantor of Scottish independence was prescription from
history. In particular, Scottish churchmen needed to refute the ecclesias-
tical counterpart of the Galfridian legend, namely the mythical conver-
sion of the whole island, the imperium of Lucius, king of the Britons,
during the second century AD.¦À Although there had been vague intima-

¦¦ Williamson, Scottish national consciousness; R. Mason (ed.), Scots and Britons (Cambridge,
1994). ¦  C. Russell, The causes of the English civil war (Oxford, 1990), ch. 2.
¦À See above, ch. 5.
The Gaelic dilemma in early modern Scotland 129

tions since the fourteenth century of a possible ecclesiastical subplot to
the history of the Dalriadic Scots,¦Ã only in the early seventeenth century
did Scots begin systematically to exploit the ecclesiological potential of
their history. Archbishop John Spottiswoode (1565“1639) drew in part
on the Buchananite story of Dalriadic Christianity, describing a non-
papal non-presbyterian conversion of the ancient Scottish nation by
disciples of John driven to Scotland by Domitian™s persecution. Spottis-
woode constructed a history of the Dalriadic church which complement-
ed his own vision of a moderate episcopacy: he noted Boece™s claim that
the Wrst bishops had been elected by the common suVrage of priests, and
argued that there had been no diocesan episcopacy in Scotland until the
ecclesiastical corruptions of the eleventh century. Spottiswoode, just as
much as any presbyterian, was also concerned to emphasise Scottish
autonomy from Canterburian jurisdiction.¦• However, it was the radical
presbyterian wing of the Scottish reformed tradition which mined Dal-
riadic antiquity to the full. David Calderwood (1575“1651) described the
existence of a primitive Christianity in Scotland without the government
of bishops. David Buchanan (c. 1595“c. 1652) proved more expansive in
the preface to his edition of Knox™s History, adding a signiWcant extension
to Knox™s own account of the Scottish presbyterian past. According to
David Buchanan King Cratilinth had established the order of Culdees in
the third century. The Culdees had chosen overseers from within their
own ranks, but these superintendents had not formed a diVerent order in
the church. Overseers had enjoyed ˜no preeminence or rank of dignity
above the rest™ of the clergy, their position being more akin to that of the
modern presbyterian ˜moderator™ than to the episcopacy. Diocesan epis-
copacy, Buchanan argued, had appeared only in the eleventh century,
and only some period thereafter had colleges of Culdees lost their rights
to elect bishops.¦’ Above all, the diVerences between Celtic and Roman

¦Ã Fordun, Chronica, pp. 64, 93“4; Hector Boece, Scotorum historiae a prima gentis origine
(1527: Paris, 1574), pp. 86, 99, 128; Buchanan, Rerum Scoticarum historia (1582), in
Buchanan, Opera omnia (2 vols., Edinburgh, 1715), lib. iv, R. 27, R. 35; lib. v, R. 42; lib.
vi, R. 69.
¦• John Spottiswoode, History of the Church of Scotland (1655: 3 vols., Spottiswoode Society,
Edinburgh, 1851), I, pp. 2“7. See also Alexander Mudie, Scotiae indiculum (London,
1682), pp. 9“11; George Mackenzie, MD, The lives and characters of the most eminent
writers of the Scots nation (3 vols., Edinburgh, 1708“22), I, pp. 18, 26, 237“8, 358; II,
p. 30.
¦’ David Calderwood, The history of the Kirk of Scotland (ed. T. Thomson, Wodrow Society,
8 vols., Edinburgh, 1842“9), I, pp. 34“43; David Buchanan, ˜Preface™, in John Knox, The
history of the Reformation of the Church of Scotland (1644: Edinburgh, 1731), pp. lvii“
lxxxiv. For the continuation of this tradition, see John Brown, An apologetical narration
(1665: Edinburgh, 1845), pp. 17“18; S. A. Burrell, ˜The apocalyptic ideas of the early
Covenanters™, SHR 43 (1964), 1“24; Alexander Petrie, A compendious history of the
Catholick church (The Hague, 1662), pp. 55“6; Robert Wodrow to George Ridpath,
130 The three kingdoms

Christianity over paschal observance and the tonsure were interpreted by
presbyterian historians as evidence of a profound gulf between Petrine
and a purer Asiatic Christianity derived from the Johannine tradition
which extended even to church government. The Synod of Whitby (664),
which met to resolve these diVerences, was built up into an ethnoreligious
clash of the corrupt Romanism of the Saxons and a pure non-hierarchical
Celtic Christianity.¦“ In the second half of the seventeenth century, as
presbyterians moved on to the defensive, the moderates amongst them
abandoned the disturbing Covenanting ideal of a new British reforma-
tion, in its stead fashioning an apology for an ancient and strictly indigen-
ous presbyterian polity.¦“
Although Scotland™s ecclesiastical identity assumed Dalriadic hues in
the course of the seventeenth century, this development did not prompt a
revision of the Kirk™s basic opposition to Gaeldom. In principle, Gaelic,
universally referred to as ˜Irish™ or the ˜Erse™ tongue, remained pigeon-
holed with popery in the Kirk™s taxonomy of the alien. The extirpation of
˜Irish™ culture remained one of the ultimate goal of the Kirk™s missionary
activities in the Highlands. The other aim of policy, however, was the
winning of souls from the anti-Christian clutches of Counter-Reforma-

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