Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/84

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Robert the Bruce.

[1286 A.D.-

succession to the throne. The estates, indeed, were held to represent the people, and they took a keen interest in the matter, but they were in no degree representative in our modern acceptation of that term. The national will was interpreted by the acts of a narrow, and chiefly alien, aristocracy, consisting of prelates and barons; and the fact that the commonalty of Scotland, many years after this, ratified the act of de Brus, representing one of many competitors, in seizing the Crown, is not enough to convict either Fraser and his colleagues or the Seven Earls of bad faith or want of patriotism, because they took measures to prevent de Balliol or de Brus, or any other competitor, dragging the country into civil war in support of his claim.

In the act of inviting Edward to arbitrate there was nothing to compromise the independence of Scotland. It was the practice at that time to settle controversies of this nature by reference to a foreign prince. Edward's reputation, both as a statesman and a knight, stood high; he had already, by the project of marriage of his son to the Queen of Scots, shown himself well disposed to the northern kingdom; and the two parties in Scotland adopted the most hopeful way out of the crisis. But in the transactions which followed, it soon became clear that the first use the King of England intended to make of his opportunity was to settle in his own favour the venerable dispute about the suzerainty. It happened to be a burning question with him just at the time, for he was at war with the King of France, who claimed his homage for the duchy of Aquitaine.