The Life and Surprising Adventures of Sir William Wallace
Sir William Wallace,
Champion of Scotland.
Printed and Sold by M. Randall.
Sir William Wallace.
SIR WILLIAM WALLACE was a descendant of an ancient and honourable family in the west of Scotland; he was the younger son of Sir Malcolm Wallace of Ellerslie, by his wife, who was a daughter of Sir Ronald Crawford, Sheriff of Ayr. The precise period of Wallace's birth is unknown, but it is highly probable that it must have been some time before the death of Alexander III. in 1286.
The mind of Wallace in his younger days was directed in its progress to maturity, by John Blair a Benedictine monk at Dundee, who was afterwards his chaplain, and lived to record his exploits.
It appears, that during the early part of his life, Wallace had resided chiefly in retirement. At what time he first emerged from the peace and the improvement of private life is uncertain; but it is presumed to have been about the period of the battle of Dunbar, where the discipline of Edward's soldiers triumphed over the loose voilence of the Scottish army, as much as his politician finesse overcame the wisdom of the Scottish nobility in other spheres of contention.
After the humiliation of Scotland, Wallace returned to Dundee, (if in fact he had been engaged in the war), for the purpose of studying under the superintendance of his tutor, Blair. He beheld the oppression of his countrymen with horror and indignation, he sympathised in the sufferings of individuals, and he mourned the degradation of his native land. While these sentiments animated his bosom, he was, in an accidental rencounter, assaulted by a young Englishman, son of Selby the constable of opposed his flight, and being still pursued very keenly, he went into an inn, exhausted with his exertions. Wallace was instantly dressed in the attire of a female, and was busily employed twirling his distaff and humming his song, when the pursuers searched the house, which they had seen him enter. They were so completely outwitted by his device that they did not discover him; and upon retiring from the immediate pursuit, he found himself at leisure to concert and adopt measures for the more effectually securing his retreat. Having left the roof of his kind hostess, he bent his steps towards the residence of a paternal uncle at Dunipace.. Though a stripling he possessed inconceivable bodily strength; he overcame young Selby in a scuffle which ensued, and killed him with his own dagger, in presence of a number of his companions. This action exposed him the rage of the English, compelled him to seek refuge in retirement from the punishment which would have followed. Having slain all Selby's attendants who
Wallace, after a short stay with his mother at Dunipace, proceeded to Ellerslie, On their arrival, they learned from Sir Ronald Crawford, the lady's husband and elder son had been cruelly murdered at Lochmaben, by the English, who infested and tyrannized over the whole country without controul. The old lady got a promise of protection from Percy, Edward's Lord Lieutenant: but Wallace scorned to accept of protection from the hands of those men who had become the tools of that tyrant's oppressions. In this situation of his affairs, he went to live in secrecy at the house of his paternal uncle Sir Richard Wallace of Riccarton where his restless and patriotic aversion to the English tyranny permitted him not long to remain. One day he went a-fishing, and in the course of his pastime was interrupted by the insolent rapacity of some of Lord Percy's followers, who happened to pass the spot where he was, the only weapon he had was his fishing rod, with which he beat one of them to the ground, and having wrested the sword from him, he soon taught the crowd, by whom he was speedily assailed, that his individual strength, skill, and intrepidity were superior to their united force: he killed several of the party, and the others fled, confounded at the matchless prowess of their single antagonist. He rode home triumphant to his uncle, on a horse left by the persons whom he killed or terrified; and he was now inspired with a just confidence in his own powers, by those exploits. His residence with Sir Richard now becoming very insecure, he resolved to devote his mightiest exertions, and even life itself, to the deliverance of his country, or to the chastisement of its oppressors; and accordingly he destroyed many English as came in his way, sparing neither the dignified nor the mean. For these noble actions he was outlawed by the English and compelled to live during the most inclement seasons of the year, entirely in the open fields the woods, and mountains, where he often wandered, subjected to all hardships that is possible for human nature to sustain; but animated by a spirit that enabled him to bid defiance to the direst calamities that assailed him.
The exploits of Wallace, were soon generally known, and attracted the notice of many, who, dreading the stratagems of Edward to subvert their independence, had courage to hazard their lives for the liberty of their country. At the head of such men as these, Wallace performed such exploits as posterity has surveyed with astonishment. He would frequently sally out of his lurking places, and with an handful of men, defeat whole multitudes. His personal strength was several of whom being accused of felony, were immediately condemned and executed. Among these were Sir Ronald Crawford sheriff of Ayr, and grandfather of Wallace, Sir Bryce Blair, Sir Niel Montgomery, and many of the barons of Kyle, Cunningham, Carrick, and Clydesdale. The few that escaped having informed Wallace of this dreadful catastrophe, with his usual intrepidity, he immediately assembled fifty of his followers, secretly entered Ayr in the night, and set fire to the place where many of the English were asleep. The garrison issuing forth from the castle, fell into an ambush laid for them, and were all put to the sword. The fort being immediately seized, Wallace marched next day to Glasgow, when engaging a body of troops, under the command of Lord Piercy, he completely routed them, and quickly after took the castle of Stirling, recovered Argyle and Lorn, with the town of St Johnston and adjacent country, and continued daily doing some signal mischief to the English and their friends. Travelling through Angus and Mearns, he arrived at Aberdeen, from which the English had just made their escape by sea, and made himself master of all the towns of consequence in the north. In the mean time, Sir William Wallace was, by the majority of the kingdom, elected guardian of Scotland, and viceroy in the absence of Baliol. The castle of Dundee was the only place that withstood the arms of Wallace in the north. While besieging this fort, he got intelligence of the approach of the English army, commanded by John earl of Surrey, and Sir Hugh Cressingham, and joined by many disaffected Scots, to the number altogether of about forty thousand men. Wallace commanded the burghers upon pain of death to prosecute with vigour the siege he had begun. And he himself, with ten thousand faithful adherents, marched towards Stirling, and encamped in an advantageous situation on a hill above the monastery of Cumbuskenneth, on the north side of the forth; which, having no fords at that place, was passable only by a wooden bridge. The English army lay on the south of the Forth; and their generals being desirous of bringing matters to an accommodation, sent two Dominican friars with overtures of peace to Wallace. These terms, insulting in the last degree to the honor and independance of Scotland, were rejected with disdain., and had often been tried; but to this he did not so much trust as to stratagem. Expeditious and indefatigable, cautious though undaunted, he eluded the pursuits of his enemies, and never exposed himself to numbers, but when certain to frustrate their endeavours, it not to triumph in their destruction. The English having proclaimed a justice-aire to be held at the town of Ayr, 12th June 1296, many of the neighbouring landed gentry attended,
"Tell your officers, (said Wallace), that we have not come to this place to sue for peace, that now we ready to find, and will immediately evince that our country is still free." This answer irritated the English generals, several of whom despising Wallace and his followers presumptuously exclaimed. "They are our own, let us instantly charge them!" The bridge formerly mentioned, over which it behoved the army to pass, was both narrow and weak, and the Scottish carpenter, who shortly before had been employed to repair it, had by Wallace's desire, cut the main beams of it half through, and thereby rendered it incapable of supporting a great weight. Urged by the impetuosity of Cressingham, Surrey gave orders to the army to march along the bridge, and Sir Marmaduke Twenge, a gentleman distinguished for valour and resolution, led the van, and boldly advanced to the foot of the hill on which the Scots had drawn up their army in order of battle. Here Wallace (illegible text) he saw as many of the English had got over as he thought he could safely encounter; but so far from making a formidable opposition, he gradually retreated as Sir Marmaduke advanced. The English commander pursued with vigour; but soon discovered that there was not a standard of his countrymen in his rear. While some of the Scots seemed to flee before him, the greater part having taken an unfrequented road, completelly intercepted his retreat, and the bridge having broken down by the immenſe weight of ſo many armed men, vaſt quantities were drowned in the river. All the English who had croſſed the Forth, to the number of ſix or ſeven thouſand, who were put to the ſword, except Sir Marmaduke and a very few, who made their eſcape by ſwimming acroſs the river. Surrey, during all this time ſtood on the ſouth ſide of the water, and had the galling mortification of ſeeing his men drowned and ſlain, without being able to afford them the ſmalleſt relief. As ſoon as Twenge joined Surrey, he adviſed him to ſet on fire the remaining part of the bridge, to prevent the victorious Scots from purſuing and harraſſing their diſheartened army. This expedient proved of little uſe for the great ſteward of Scotland and the earl of Lennox having pr(illegible text)y po(illegible text)ed themſelv(illegible text) an ambuſh, at a ſhort diſtance from the Engliſh, came from behind the mountains as ſoon as they aſcertained the event of the cay, charged the retiring Earl, put him to fight, and purſued him with ſuch vigour, that with difficulty he eſcaped to Berwick.
This glorious battle, ſo diſaſtrous to the Engliſh army, was fought on the 11 13th Septemper. Sir Andrew Murray was the only Scotſman of note that loft his life, although many of the Engliſh commanders fell that day. This vic- tory was evinced to be complete in its effects and conſequences. No English- man durſt remain in Scotland; and all thoſe cots, who, for reaſons of policy or of baſeneſs, bed deſerted to the Eng- liſh intereſt, now ſubmitted to Wallace, and huiled him as the deliverer of their country. And thus, in about fourteen months after the King had been depoſed and his kingdom ſubdued and obliged to own a foreign prince as their heridi- tary king, did Wallace, till then a private obſcure gentleman, unaccuſtomed to martial exploits, without money or arms but ſuch as he took from the enemy, and with only a handful of men, reſtore the nation to its ancient liberty and inde- pendance. Although 'the plunder taken at the battle of Stirling was not inconſiderable, many armies ranging through all parts of the kingdom occaſioned a great ſcarcity, and a general famine was ſeri- ouſly apprehended. To prevent this calamity, Wallace issued orders, com- manding all Scotſmen capable of bearing arms to be ready to join him by turns. The men thus raiſed were formed into 12 regiments, and had officers appointed over then. Having thus arranged all domeſtic affairs, and collected as many men as he thought neceſſary for his pur- poſe, he, under himſelf, as commander, -appointed Andrew Murray, ſurnamed the noble, ſon of Andrew Murray who ſhortly before fell at the battle of Stir- ling, and entered England on the 18th October. The inhabitants of Northum- berland, alarmed at his approach, leav- ing the country deſenceleſs, fled with their families and effects to Newcaſtle. Upon this, Wallace and his army halted, or rather ſeemed to retreat. The coun- try people obſerving their retrogade mo- tion, returned to their houſes, and were all unawares ſurpriſed by parties of the the Scottiſh army, who ravaged the country between Tyne and Dervent, for the ſpace of twenty three days. A body of freſh troops advancing now to the borders, ſome of the former were ſent home, and had the peculiar ſatisfaction of carrying back with them to their friends the welcome rews of their va- rious ſucceſſes, particularly the plenty of food they had procured in the land of their enemies. But Wallace did not think proper to attack them, or to puſh his ſucceſſes farther; he had already done ſufficient miſchief to bis enemies, and and had at an easy rate, obtained much glory to his countrymen, and reflected distinguished lustre on the Scottish arms.
The fame of Wallace, and the splendid victories which he had gained both in Scotland and in England, spread abroad, and attracted the attention of the courts of England and France. Philip the Fair, the French monarch, heard of his successes with joy; but Edward I. king of England observed them with decided displeasure: he felt much at being outstripped by one whom he accounted his inferior. The constable and marshal of England, the earls of Gloucester, Surrey, and Arundel, and a great majority of the earls and barons of the kingdom agreed that a large army should be instantly raised, and that within eight days all the forces they could collect should assemble at Newcastle. This meeting took place as appointed, and the army was found to consist of four thousand and five hundred cavalry, and upwards of a hundred thousand infantry. The prince and foresaid nobleman headed this immense body, marched against the Scots, relieved the castle of Roxburgh, which Wallace was besieging, and took possession of Berwick, which the Scottish garrison had abandoned as untenable; and having proceeded thus far, they received orders from Edward to halt, till he himself, having now settled his affairs abroad, should come home, and put an end to the disturbances in Scotland.
Edward having arrived in England on the 21st March, immediately sent letters to Wallace, replete with insult and abuse. He told him, that he durst not have attempted a revolt in Scotland, far less an invasion on England, had he himself been in the island. Sir William received Edward's messenger with that dignity which became his present situation, and replied that he had more reason to take the advantage of Edward's absence to deliver his country from servitude, than he of the divisions of a free and independant people to enslave them: he added, that he had invaded England to repay the injuries done to Scotland; that he meant to keep his Easter in the same country, and he invited his highness to that feast. He punctually did what he promised. Edward had a great army to oppose him. But Sir William's courage which had been conspicuous all along, did not fail him here; with his usual intrepidity, he collected his chosen troops, rallied, and came in fight of the mighty monarch near Stanmore.
Edward's army appeared to the Scots to be incredibly numerous, the armour of the soldiers glittering, the equipage of the officers rich and elegant, and the found of their trumpets and noise of their drums pompous and terrible. Yet such was the ardour and bravery of many in the Scottish army, that they requested leave from the guardian to go a-pickering, and thus by conspicuously evincing their undaunted intrepidity, to aim at the honour of knighthood. But this favour Wallace was by no means disposed to confer. He issued a proclamation, commanding all his men upon pain of death to keep their ranks, to march with gravity, and to attempt nothing without his orders. Edward observed and admired the order, discipline, and formidable appearance of the same enemy he had been hitherto accustomed to despise. His own veteran and experienced soldiers had not arrived from Flanders, and in this situation he thought it improper to hazard his own glory, the lives of his nobles, and the forfeiture of his claim, with an undisciplined though numerous militia, against a small but resistless army, in which every officer and every soldier acted the part of a hero. Edward, therefore, wisely retired, and Wallace, with no less prudence, checked the impetuous courage of his men, who, seeing the enemy retreat, were eager to follow and charge their rear. He again upon pain of death, discharged every one from stirring from their ranks, and told his followers, "that they had done enough when they stood their ground, and kept their countenance in the presence of such a power, which one would thought was able to have swallowed them up: that this was in effect a victory, and so much the more glorious, that they had gained it without drawing their swords." This speech being circulated through the army, had an agreeable influence upon all their minds: the officers alighted from their horses, and the whole army prostrated themselves on the ground, while, according the custom of the day, they sung the praises of St. Andrew, the patron of Scotland, and returned thanks to St Cuthbert, on whose feast, and in some measure by whole intercession, they attributed their courage having been so roused, and their enemies put to flight.
The glory of Sir William Wallace was now at its height; and as, by numerous and gallant exploits, he had become the admiration of Europe, and the terror of England, and the darling of his countrymen; so he was the object of the envy, jealousy, and fear of the nobility.
17 John Cumide of Badenoch, and Robert Bruce earl of Carrick, both of the blood royal, and both of aſpiring diſpoſitions, were afraid that he would at length uſurp the ſovereignity, and ſeize upon the crown, to which they had a juſt and le- gal title. Theſe conſiderations made the one join openly with the enemy, and the other to act but faintly againſt him. Thus did Scotland, by the wonderful conduct and vigilance of its guardian, enjoy peace in the midſt of war, and the people, guarded by repeated victories o- ver their enemies, ſecurely cultivated the formerly neglected foil, and diſperſed plenty over the land; while at the ſame time, the more powerful nobles, inebri- ated with envy and jealouſy, outwardly profeſſed all the gratitude that was due to the admired atchievements of their deliverer, but ſecretly conſpired his ruin, and in order to effect this, cauſed rum- ours to be ſpread abroad, intimating, that he deſigned to uſurp the crown: and that if an uſurper muſt reign, a great and mighty monarch, tho' a foreigner, was preferable to an upſtart of yeſterday. By this time, the formidable army which Edward had left in Flanders, was returned to England; and he to ſtrength en it by the addition of all the forces 18 which that kingdom, with Ireland arid Wales; could raiſe, had gratified his no- bles reſpecting the priviliges for which they had long contended; and now their jealouſies being completely removed, they marched with him againſt the Scots with courage and alacrity. To oppoſe this formidable power, Wallace had not above thirty thouſand both horſe and foot; yet in that high ſtate of diſcipline which they had attained, and animated with that patriotic ardour which had long marked their conduct, they would doubte leſs have withſtood their enemies, had they been commanded by the guardian alone: but unfortunately, two men, of acknowledged bravery indeed, (but as were the greater part of the nobility and their immediate dependants, for the rea- ſons already noticed, his ſecret enemies), divided with him the command. In this poſition did they remain at Falkirk, eleven miles from Stirling, till the army of Edward appeared on the 22d day of July, after having reduced ſeveral caſtles, and penetrated thus far into the heart of the kingdom. And now was the time in which the animoſi- ties that unhapyily ſubſiſted between the commanders ſhould have been entirely baniſhed; but unfortunately for Scot19 land this was not the caſe. Each of them would have the honour of going firſt up- on the head of the van; Wallace, becauſe he was guardian of the kingdom; Cum- ine, on account of his more numerous vaſſalage, and royal birth; and Stewart, becauſe he acted that day in place of his brother, the lord high ſteward himſelf, whoſe vaſſals or military tenants would obey no commands but what he gave them; and he is ſaid to lave ſtood ſo much upon the punctilio cf honour, that he upbraided Wallace to his fare, char- ged him with ambition and pride, and compared him to the owl in the fable, which had nothing originally of its own, but begged a feather of every bird, and thus having acquired rich and gay plum- age, pretended to beauty and ſuperiority above all others. It is eaſy to conjecture what muſt be the reſult of a battle begun at ſuch a time, and in ſuch a manner. While the fatal debate was agitated with the greateſt heat, Edward, although he had that very morning got a fall from his horſe, by which two of his ribs were broken, cauſed a charge to be founded. The Scots were ſoon routed and loſt upwards of ten thouſand men. Sir John Cumine with thoſe under his command went away without fighting at all: Sir 20 John Stewart fought bravely and died honourably, as did all his dependants. And the guardian, who, in the begin- ning of the action, had juſt ſufficient time to addreſs this ſhort ſpeech to his men," I have brought you to the king, fly if you can," did all that could be ex- pected from the greateſt commander in the world. Thus Wallace, by the means to which we have already adverted, was obliged to retreat; on which account, and be- cauſe of the numerous forces he took to the field, he was branded as the main author of all the loſſes which his country had ſuſtained. This line of conduct, however, he was ſoon after diſpoſed to follow : for by Sir John Cumine's conduct, both before and after the battle, and by the converſation which he afterwards had with Robert Bruce earl of Carrick, he plainly under ſtood that theſe great men were actuated by mere jealouſy, a paſſion of all others the leaſt eaſily checked; and that both having an eye to the crown, would al- ways oppoſe at leaſt, would never hearti- ly concur with one, who, in their appre- hension, bad merit and ambition enough to ſet it on his own head. After the glorious victory obtained in the beginning of the campaign 1302, by 21 the Scots, in the vicinity of Roſlin, when he had reaſon to conclude that his coun- try ſtood not ſo much in need of his fer- vice. It is ſaid that in his voyage to France he fought with and made priſoner, the famous French pirate, Thomas de Long- uevile, commonly called the Red-rover; and that he was heartily welcomed and very much careſſed by Philip the Fair. At a time, when their ſervices were again required, Sir William Wallace and his unconquerable friends appeared a- gain in the field, in opposition to that irreſiſtable army, upon the head of which king Edward marched triumphantly through, and a ſecond time ſubdued nearly the whole kingdom of Scotland. king Edward had got reaſon to dread our hero; that prince did not think himſelf an abſolute conqueror while he ſurvived. But Wallace was not, as oth- ere to be awed into ſubmiſſion, by fines, forfeitures, or threats : he therefore courted him with large and magnificent promiſes of honours and wealth, places and penſions; but in vain, his conſtant anſwer, both to his intimate friends and to the emmiſſaries of king Edward who addreſſed him on the ſubject, was, " That he owed his life to, and would willingly lay it down for his country; that, ſhould all Scotſmen but himhimself submit to the king of England, he never would; nor would he give obedience or yield allegiance to any power, except the king of Scotland, his rightful sovereign."
Since therefore, neither threats, nor bribes, nor example, neither open force nor secret stratagem, could conquer the invincible soul of this undaunted hero, Edward bethought him of the traitor Sir John Monteith, one of those in whom he placed the most unbounded confidence, brought a party of Englishmen upon him as he lay concealed in the neighbourhood of Glasgow. These having immediately apprehended him, carried him to London, by orders of king Edward. As this misfortune, the greatest that, at this conjucture, could befall the kingdom of Scotland, was inexpressibly afflictive to all its sincere friends and honest defenders: so it gave joy and pleasure to all ranks of people in England. They now imagined the war was at an end: yet even the rabble could not but pity the hard fate of an enemy so renowned.
When he arrived in London, he was conducted to and lodged in the house of one William Delect, in Fenchurch street. The next day [23d August 1305] he was brought on horseback to Westminster, 23 accompanied by ſeveral knights, the mayor, ſheriffs, and aldermen of the city, with many other perſons of emi- nence and rank; in preſence of all whom he was ſeated on the ſouth bench of the great hall; and either becauſe they wiſh ed the people to believe that he had af- pired to the crown of Scotland, or be- cauſe it was reported that he had for- merly boaſted that he had deſerved to wear a diadem, in that place they crown- ed him with laurel, while Sir Peter Ma- lory, the chief-juſtice, impeached him of treaſon. To this charge he boldly replied, “That a traitor he never was, nor could be to the king of England." The other crimes for which he was in- dited, as burning of towns, ſtorming of caſtles, killing of the Engliſh, &c. &c. he frankly acknowledged, but denied that they were crimes, unleſs miſtaken loyalty to one's natural ſovereign, with deference to whom, and in whoſe name he ever acted-zeal for the juſt rights and liberties, of one's native country, by the community of which, he was cre- ated a magiſtrate and reſiſting the en- croachments of a foreign government and tyrannical uſurpation-ſhall deſerve to be branded with that edious name. However, theſe heroic virtues were voted crimes; and the priſoner, notwithſtand- ing he had never acknowledged or ſub24 mitted to the laws of England, was tried by them, and condemned to be banged, drawn, and quartered, and, whilſt alive, to have his bowels cut out; all which was executed with the utmoſt ſeverity, or rather relentleſs barbarity. It is doubtleſs if ever any country pro- duced a hero ſimilar to Wallace. Wal- lace, only a private gentleman, the fee- ond brother of a Scots laird, who, tho' he had martial England to contend with, and ambitious Edward, who had ſpread terror in other nations bythe power of his arms--wrought the ſalvation of his coun- try, and reſcued its liberties, its ancient rights and privileges from the elſe certain deſtruction which brooded over them; with few of the nobility and commonalty to ſupport or eſpouſe his cauſe, till by ex- ploits incredible for their greatneſs he wrought them into a belief, that under him they would prove invincible. No man ever attempted more than he; yet none was more cautious, or better under- ſtood the arts of ſtratagem. Untutored himſelf, he taught the whole nation to be ſoldiers, and diſciplined them ſo ad- mirably, that, had it been thought pro- per to have carried on his plan, Scotland could always afford at -leaſt thirty thou- ſand men, ready for any enterpriſe what- ever, and that too without being charge able to the government, or depopulating the country, THE END.