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onwards confessional differences overlaid older medieval debates about
the location of ecclesiastical authority within the British Isles. British
debates over ecclesiastical jurisdiction developed into disputes over
church government, the relationship of church and state, and, by exten-
sion, over the location of sovereignty within the state. Questions of
jurisdiction and autonomy retained their former importance, but were
now rendered more urgent and immediate by the threat that a part of the
British world might impose its own brand of religious conformity upon
its neighbours. Scots Presbyterianism remained acutely vulnerable to the
taunt of illegitimacy. Scots Presbyterians confronted the particular
challenges posed by the Church of England, including an Anglican
churchmanship which prided itself on the apostolic continuity of its
episcopate, as well as the metropolitan claims of its archbishops to
jurisdiction over the church in Scotland. In the face of these challenges,
Scottish Kirkmen saw the need to establish an indigenous pedigree for
their church polity as a means of reinforcing the legitimacy of presby-
terian church government. Various indigenous myths proved useful in
this regard.22 These apparently provided material from the primitive era
of the church which might substantiate the claim of Scots presbyterians
to the crucial defining mark of antiquity, if not quite to perpetuity.
Acccording to the Presbyterian interpretation of Scottish history, the
early church in Dalriada had been subordinate neither to the Pope nor to
bishops, but had been governed by colleges of monks called Culdees.
From the early seventeenth century Scottish ecclesiastical historians
turned to the early history of Dalriada as a means of justifying the

21
Prynne 1670, ˜Epistle Dedicatory™, pp. 487, 556.
22
Russell 1990, ch. 2; Kidd 1995, pp. 163À5.
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Scottish Reformation. Early seventeenth-century historians such as David
Buchanan (c. 1595Àc. 1652) saw the potential to construct an illustrious
indigenous pedigree for Scottish Protestantism out of existing historical
materials. For example, in the writings of Tertullian (c. 160Àc. 220) there
was an observation that a part of Britain which the Romans had failed
to conquer À presumed to be Scotland À had been won over to the
Christian gospel: Britannorum inaccessa Romanis loca, Christo vero subdita.
There was also an intriguing reference in Fordun to the effect that there
had been no bishop among the Scots until Palladius in the early fifth
century. The sixteenth-century historian Hector Boece had argued for the
conversion of the Scots around the year 200 in the reign of the fictitious
Donald I. In addition, Boece had transferred the Culdees, an eighth-
century Irish monastic reform movement, back into third-century
Dalriada. George Buchanan saw the potential in this to construct a
history of Scotland™s early non-papal conversion by Johannine À rather
than Petrine À missionaries. However, it was only in the seventeenth
century that presbyterian historians concocted a full-blown history of an
ancient proto-presbyterian Kirk of Dalriada governed by Culdees À
rather than by Rome or by bishops. David Calderwood (1575À1651)
contended that a primitive Celtic Christianity without bishops had once
flourished in Scotland. David Buchanan set out the system of Culdaic
church government in more detail. The Culdees, who had been
established in the third century by King Cratilinth, had elected overseers
of the church from within their own ranks, but these superintendents had
not formed a distinct order within the church. According to Buchanan
full-blown diocesan episcopacy had only made its appearance in the
eleventh century.23 This Presbyterian celebration of the ancient Celtic
church would continue into the eighteenth century, with the democratic
proto-presbyterian order of Culdees woven into the political myth of
Scotland™s ancient elective constitution.24
Scotland™s supposed indigenous pedigree reinforced a more decisive
argument for presbytery by divine right. Scots Presbyterians did not

23
Fordun 1871À1872, pp. 64, 93À4; Boece 1574, pp. 86, 99, 128; Buchanan 1715, Rerum Scoticarum
historia, lib. iv, R. 27 R. 35; lib. v, R. 42; lib. vi, R. 69; Calderwood 1842À1849, i, pp. 34À43;
Buchanan 1731, pp. lviiÀlxxxiv.
24
Dalrymple 1705; Wodrow 1842À1843a, ˜Robert Wodrow to George Ridpath, Sept. 23, 1717™, ii,
p. 313; Wodrow 1842À1843b, ii, p. 326; iii, p. 383; Wodrow, ˜Introduction, To our Scots
Biography . . . ™ (1727) (University Library, Glasgow, MS Gen 1213). For the continuation of this
tradition, see Brown 1845, pp. 17À18; Burrell 1964, pp. 1À24; Petrie 1662, pp. 55À6; Stevenson
1753À1757, i, pp. 3À26.
Contours of British Political Thought 57
contend for presbytery as the peculiar church government of Scotland.
While presbytery was celebrated as Scotland™s historic form of church
polity and the unfolding of Scottish history was attributed to the
benign workings of providence, there was no suggestion that Scotland
was unique, its presbyterianism an exception to the wider history
of Christendom. In general, Scotland™s earliest experiences of church
government had conformed to the primitive norm, though perhaps such
direct evidence was lacking for other places. Rather, it was understood
that the history of the Scottish church provided a local example which
crucially supplemented the lessons of scripture and the primitive fathers.25
Here Scotland™s ancient ecclesiastical constitution and the religious
matter of Britain intersected with wider European debates about church
government. For Scottish history seemed to provide a compelling
primitive example of non-episcopal governance. Such evidence was highly
prized by Reformed defenders of the legitimacy of presbyterian
government, not least for its scarcity value. Seventeenth-century Europe
resounded to a major debate between Catholic antiquaries such as Denis
Petau (1583À1652) who challenged the validity of presbyterian orders and
Reformed scholars À such as Claude De Saumaise [Salmasius]
(1588À1653) who argued that there had been no distinction between
bishops and presbyters, or priests, in the early Christian church. However,
decisive evidence was hard to come by. The polymathic English jurist,
antiquary and orientalist John Selden (1584À1654), an opponent of
prelatical episcopacy who was far from being an unqualified champion
of divine right presbytery, identified a critical piece of evidence in the
Nazm al-Gawahir [Chaplet of Pearls], a universal history of the world
from Adam to 938 ce by Sa™id ibn Batriq (876À940), an Egyptian Arab
better-known as Eutychius, the Melchite Patriarch of Alexandria.
Eutychius argued in his history that at Alexandria there had originally
been no distinction between bishops and priests. Selden™s edition of
a fragment from the Chaplet of Pearls, published as Eutychii Aegyptii,
patriarchae orthodoxorum Alexandrini, Ecclesiae suae Origines (1642),
provoked considerable controversy, attacked not only by Roman Catholic
apologists but also in 1661 by the Maronite Christian Abraham
Ecchellensis, who claimed that Selden had mistranslated the Arabic of
the original. Interestingly, Selden also wrote elsewhere À in his Judicium
de decem historiae Anglicanae scriptoribus (1653) À about the other

25
See e.g. Jameson 1697; Jameson 1712.
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remarkable example from the ancient world of presbyterian church
goverment, the case of the Culdees, which he explicitly set in the
international context of the controversy over Eutychius and the debate
between Petau and Salmasius. The fact that the Scottish church had
enjoyed a proper ecclesiastical polity without bishops for a full two
centuries from the reign of King Donald around 200 ce through to the
sending of Palladius to Scotland as À apparently À its first bishop around
430 was also seized on by the French Huguenot scholar David Blondel
(1590À1655) in his Apologia pro sententia Hieronymi de episcopis
et presbyteris (1646) as a telling piece of evidence. Similarly, the English
Dissenter Richard Baxter (1615À1691) in his Treatise of Episcopacy (1681)
cited the case of Scottish church government without bishops to bolster
his argument for the legitimacy of presbyterian orders; indeed, Baxter
argued, had not a succession of early English bishops received ordination
at the hands of Scots presbyters from Iona?26
In the 1680s the issue of the Culdees provoked an intense round of
debate over the matter of Britain, which embraced political as well as
confessional and ecclesiastical differences. In his Historical Account of
Church-Government As it was in Great-Britain and Ireland when they first
received the Christian Religion (1684) William Lloyd, the English occupant
of the Welsh bishopric of St. Asaph, identified the story of the Culdees as
a dangerous lie. Of the various arguments deployed against the legitimacy
of episcopacy, noted Lloyd, there was ˜none that hath made more noise in
the world, or that hath given more colour to the cause of our adversaries,
than that which they have drawn from the example of the ancient Scottish
church™. What was so disturbing about the way modern Scots
Presbyterians used the legend of the Culdees was that it took the
ground away from those critics who argued that presbyterianism was a
dangerous radical novelty. Lloyd noted that when the Scots ˜covenanted
against episcopacy they had only used their own right; and thrown out
that which was a confessed innovation, in order to the restoring of that
which was their primitive government™. His assault on the Culdees was
soon reinforced by Edward Stillingfleet in his Origines Britannicae (1685),
and led to a wider attack on the credibility of the whole of Scotland™s
ancient history from 330 bce through to the dark ages À not out of

26
Selden 1726, Eutychii Aegyptii, patriarchae orthodoxorum Alexandrini . . . Ecclesiae suae Origines,
ii, tom. i; Selden 1726, Judicium de decem historiae Anglicana scriptoribus, ii, tom. ii, esp.
cols. 1130À1; Blondel 1646, p. 315; Baxter 1681, pp. 224À5. See also Hart 1952, p. 92; Champion
1992, p. 62.
Contours of British Political Thought 59
English chauvinism per se but to further specifically Anglican ends
through the subversion of the presbyterian interpretation of Scotland™s
past. Ironically, the works of Lloyd and Stillingfleet provoked fevered
responses from Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh, a Scottish
episcopalian who shared the doubts of his English co-religionists about
the Culdees, but who knew that to jettison Scotland™s early history also
challenged the proud boast of the Stuart kings to be descended from
a monarchy established in Scotland 330 bce.27
The Irish antiquary Roderic O™Flaherty did not accept the truth of the
history either, and the mid-1680s witnessed an assault on the historicity of
Scotland™s ancient history from every other quarter of the British Isles.28
Mackenzie, who was the King™s Advocate in Scotland, declared it to be
` ´
lese majeste among the subjects of the Stuarts to question the antiquity of
the Scottish royal lineage. After all, the antiquity of the Scottish royal line
was implicated in the defence of Scottish independence from offensive
English claims to a feudal superiority over Scotland. Mackenzie devoted
a chapter of his Observations on Precedency to a demonstration ˜That the
Crown of Scotland was not subject to England™. Scotland, the royalist
Mackenzie insisted, had always been a free monarchy. What evidence was
there for the original constitution of the feu? Nor did history supply
corroboration of the English boast that the Anglo-Scottish relationship
was that of superior and vassal. The legal consequences of such an
arrangement should be obvious: a vassal could not engage in diplomacy
with a superior, nor could a vassal treat his own vassal as a foreigner. Yet
British history gave the lie to such pretensions.29
The issue flared up again during the 1690s and haunted the negotiation
of incorporating Union in 1706À1707. These intense historical
controversies of the 1690s and 1700s on the subject of Scottish sover-
eignty have come to be known as ˜the imperial crowns debate™.30 In 1695,
responding to the discovery and publication by Thomas Rymer, the King
of England™s historiographer, of archival evidence that Malcolm Canmore
had performed homage to Edward the Confessor, George Ridpath
published an edition of Thomas Craig™s treatise on homage, De hominio,
under the title Scotland™s Soverainty Asserted: Being a Dispute concerning

27
Lloyd 1684, ˜Preface™; Stillingfleet 1685; Mackenzie 1716À1722, ii.
28
O™Flaherty 1793, i, pp. xix, lviiÀlxvi, 225À92.
29
Mackenzie 1716À1722, Observations upon the Laws and Customs of Nations as to Precedency, ii,
pp. 520À29.
30
Ferguson 1974.
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Homage, against those who maintain that Scotland is a Feu, or Fee-liege
of England, and that therefore the King of Scots owed Homage to the King
of England. Ridpath claimed that Rymer™s Scottish sovereignty was
presented in such a way that it answered the pretensions of those who
questioned the existence of an independent Scottish sovereignty. Rymer
had also questioned the historicity of the ancient alliance supposedly
contracted between the Scottish king Achaius and Charlemagne, which
functioned as compelling evidence of Scotland™s historic sovereignty and
independence.31
This phase of the debate was also fought over ecclesiastical terrain.
Scots from both wings of their nation™s Reformed tradition responded to
slurs upon the historic autonomy of the church of Scotland, most notably
James Dalrymple for the Presbyterians and Sir Robert Sibbald for an
Episcopalian interpretation of Scottish church history which conceded
nothing to his Anglican co-religionists.32 The question of ecclesiastical
jurisdiction was so closely intertwined with that of Scottish political
autonomy that Episcopalians remained as staunch as Presbyterians on this
issue. Just because there had been no Scottish archbishopric until 1472,
it was argued, did not mean that the church in Scotland had been subject
to an English metropolitan. The debate spilled over in another direction,
being closely shadowed by an Anglo-Irish debate instigated by William
Molyneux™s The Case of Ireland Stated (1698), which insisted upon
Ireland™s full regnal status.33
The British succession crisis which ensued in 1700 at the death of
Princess Anne™s last child, and William™s last direct heir within the
Protestant family of James VII and II, further raised the stakes in Anglo-
Scottish relations. In particular, Scottish sensibilities were appalled at the
arguments of Molyneux™s former opponent the English Whig polemicist
William Atwood,34 who, redirected his attention from the Anglo-Irish to
the Anglo-Scottish relationship in his book The Superiority and Direct
Dominion of the Imperial Crown of England over the Crown and Kingdom
of Scotland (1704), which was followed by a sequel in 1705.35 Atwood
believed that as the crown of England held rights of superiority over
Scotland, that the English Act of Settlement (1701) entailing the crown of
England (and the subordinate crown of Ireland) on the Protestant
Hanoverian line should thereby take effect in the vassal-kingdom of
Scotland whether or not it gained the formal endorsement of a
31
Craig 1695; Sibbald 1704b, p. 4. 32 Dalrymple 1705; Sibbald 1704a.
33
Molyneux 1698. 34 Atwood 1698. 35 Atwood 1704; Atwood 1705.
Contours of British Political Thought 61
recalcitrant Scots parliament. Atwood claimed that the monarchs of
England were heirs to an ancient pan-Britannic imperium and that the
kingdom of Scotland was a feu held by the sub-kings of Scotland from an
English feudal superior. The English Tory historian James Drake had also
advanced a similar argument to Atwood™s À though in a much less brazen
manner À in his Historia Anglo-Scotica (1703), which recounted various
examples of Scottish kings performing homage to their English suzerains.
Drake began with Canmore™s homage to William the Conqueror and also
cited William the Lion™s acknowledgement that he was the ˜King of
England™s liege-man for the realm of Scotland, and his other lands,
and for the same should do fealty to the said King of England, as to his
sovereign lord.™36
The Scots parliament ordered Atwood™s work to be burnt by the public
hangman and encouraged the patriotic efforts of the lawyer and antiquary
James Anderson,37 who composed a direct riposte, An Historical Essay
shewing that the Crown and Kingdom of Scotland is Imperial and
Independent (1705) and went on to publish a collection of materials in
vindication of this position, Selectus Numismatum Diplomatum Scotiae
(1739). Anderson claimed that acts of homage to the kings of England had
been performed only in respect of lands held by the Scottish kings in the
northern counties of England, and did not involve any acknowledgement
of the subjection of the kingdom of Scotland to an English imperial
crown.38
It is worth paying some attention to the fascinating otherness of these

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