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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Calderwood and the younger Melville


In

Scotland the studies connected with classical antiquity were prosecuted with as much zeal as anywhere else in Europe; not however in order to imitate its forms in the native idiom, which no one at that time even in Germany thought of doing, but in order to use it in learned theological controversies, and to maintain connexion with brother Protestants of other tongues. S. Andrew's was at one time a centre for Protestant learning: Poles and Danes, Germans and French visited this university in order to study under Melville. Even Latin verse was written with a certain elegance. A fit monument of these studies and their direction is to be found in Buchanan's History of Scotland, a work without value for the earlier period, and full of party spirit in describing his own, as Buchanan is one of the most violent accusers of Mary Stuart, but pervaded by that warmth and decision which carry the reader along with it: at that time it was read all over the world. Buchanan and Melville were among the champions of popular ideas on the constitution of states and the relations between sovereign and people. It cannot be affirmed that classical studies were without influence upon their views, but the doctrine to which they adhered grew out of a different root. It rests historically upon the doctrine of the superiority of the Church, and the councils representing the Church, over the Papacy, as it was put forth in the fifteenth century at Paris. A Scottish student there, John Major, made this doctrine
his own, and after his return to his native country, when he himself had obtained a professorship, he applied it to temporal relations. The positions of the advocates of the councils affirmed that the Pope, it was true, received his authority from God, but that he might be again deprived of it in cases of urgent necessity by the Church, which virtually included the sum of all authority in itself. In the same way John Major taught that an original power transmitted from father to son pertained to kings, but that the fundamental authority resided in the people; so that a king mischievous to the commonwealth, who showed himself incorrigible, might be deposed again. His scholars, who took so large a part in the first disturbances in Scotland, and their scholars in turn, firmly maintained this doctrine. They differed from their contemporaries the Jesuits, who considered the monarchy to be an institution set up by the national will, in ascribing to it a divine right, but they urged that a king existed for the sake of the people, and that as he was bound by the laws agreed on by common consent, resistance to him was not only allowed, but under certain circumstances might even be a duty. We must also remark the opposite view, which was developed in contradiction to this, but yet rested on the same foundation. It was admitted that the king, if the people were considered as a whole, existed for their sake, and not the people for his; but the king, it was said, was at the same time the head of the people; he possessed superiority over all individuals: there was no one who could say in any case that the contract between king and people had been broken: no such general contract existed at all; there could be no question at all of resistance, much less of deposition, for how could the members rebel against the head? King James maintained that the legislative power belonged to the king by divine and human right, that he exercised it with the participation of his subjects, and always remained superior to the laws. His position rests on these views, in the development of which he himself had certainly a great share; he, like his opponents, had his political and ecclesiastical adherents. In the Scottish literature of the time both tendencies are embodied in important historical works; the latter principally in Spottiswood's Church History, which represents the royalist views and is not without merit in point of form, so that even at the present day it can be read with pleasure; the former in contemporary notices of passing events which were composed in the language and even in the dialect of the country, and which in many places are the foundation even of Buchanan's history. They are the most direct expression of national and religious views, as they found vent in the assemblies of preachers and elders; in them we feel the life-breath of Presbyterianism. Calderwood and the younger Melville, who collected everything which came to hand, espoused the popular ideas; for information on facts and their causes they are invaluable, although in respect of form they do not rival Spottiswood, who, like them, employs the language of the country.


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