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Scottish Parliament and The Crown

With the coming of a dynasty which endured for three centuries, we must sketch the relations, in Scotland, of Crown and Parliament till the days of the Covenant and the Revolution of 1688. Scotland had but little of the constitutional evolution so conspicuous in the history of England. The reason is that while the English kings, with their fiefs and wars in France, had constantly to be asking their parliaments for money, and while Parliament first exacted the redress of grievances, in Scotland the king was expected “to live of his own” on the revenue of crown-lands, rents, feudal aids, fines exacted in Courts of Law, and duties on merchandise. No “tenths” or “fifteenths” were exacted from clergy and people. There could be no “constitutional resistance” when the Crown made no unconstitutional demands.

In Scotland the germ of Parliament is the King’s court of vassals of the Crown. To the assemblies, held now in one place, now in another, would usually come the vassals of the district, with such officers of state as the Chancellor, the Chamberlain, the Steward, the Constable or Commander-in-Chief, the Justiciar, and the Marischal, and such Bishops, Abbots, Priors, Earls, Barons, and tenants-in-chief as chose to attend. At these meetings public business was done, charters were granted, and statutes were passed; assent was made to such feudal aids as money for the king’s ransom in the case of William the Lion. In 1295 the seals of six Royal burghs are appended to the record of a negotiation; in 1326 burgesses, as we saw, were consulted by Bruce on questions of finance.

The misfortunes and extravagance of David II. had to be paid for, and Parliament interfered with the Royal prerogative in coinage and currency, directed the administration of justice, dictated terms of peace with England, called to account even hereditary officers of the Crown, such as the Steward, Constable, and Marischal, controlled the King’s expenditure, or tried to do so, and denounced the execution of Royal warrants against the Statutes and common form of law. They summarily rejected David’s attempt to alter the succession of the Crown.

At the same time, as attendance of multitudes during protracted Parliaments was irksome and expensive, arose the habit of intrusting business to a mere “Committee of Articles,” later “The Lords of the Articles,” selected in varying ways from the Three Estates, Spiritual, Noble, and Commons. These Committees saved the members of Parliament from the trouble and expense of attendance, but obviously tended to become an abuse, being selected and packed to carry out the designs of the Crown or of the party of nobles in power. All members, of whatever Estate, sat together in the same chamber. There were no elected Knights of the Shires, no representative system.

The reign of David II. saw two Scottish authors or three, whose works are extant. Barbour wrote the chivalrous rhymed epic-chronicle ‘The Brus’; Wyntoun, an unpoetic rhymed “cronykil”; and “Hucheoun of the Awle Ryal” produced works of more genius, if all that he is credited with be his own.

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