History of Scotland
Declaration of Independence

What was the Declaration of Arbroath?

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2006-08-24 20:43:29

Written in the year 1320 possibly by Bernard de Linton, Abbot of

Arbroath and Chancellor of Scotland. Above the seals of eight Earls

and forty five Barons, it asked for the Pope's dispassionate

intervention in the bloody quarrel between Scotland and England,

and so that he might understand the difference between the two.

It's preamble gave him a brief history of the former. The laughable

fiction of the preamble is irrelevant. What is important is the

passionate sincerity of the men who believed it, who were placing a

new Nationalism over their own feudal obligations. Blessed by

Christ and protected by St Andrew, said the preamble, the Scots had

enjoyed their freedom in peace until it was stolen from them by the

English. Then neither age nor sex, religion nor rank, monk nor nun,

had been safe from cruelty, massacre, violence, pillage and arson,

outrages which 'no one could describe nor fully imagine unless he

had seen them with his own eyes'. From such evils Scotland had been

delivered at last by it's tireless Prince and King, the Lord

Robert. They were, of course, looking for the sympathy vote

neglecting to mention that the above crimes were commited by the

Scots on the English as well, during the many raids and invasions

of years gone by. However, the Declaration goes on 'Yet if he

should give up what he has begun, and agree to make us or our

Kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should

exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a

subverter of his own rights and ours, and make some other man who

was well able to defend us our King; for, as long as but a hundred

of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought

under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor

honours that we are fighting, but for freedom - for that alone,

which no honest man gives up but with life itself. Let the Pope

urge the King of England to 'leave us Scots in peace, who live in

this poor Scotland... and covet nothing but his own'. If he did

not, if he lent too credulous an ear to the English, then he must

take responsibility for the 'slaughter of bodies, the perdition of

souls, and all the other misfortunes that will follow'. In it's

mixture of defiance and supplication, nonsensical history and noble

thought, two things make The Decralation of Arbroath the most

important document in Scottish History. Firstly it set the will and

the wishes of the people above the King. Though they were bound to

him 'both by law and his merits' it was so that their freedom might

be maintained. If he betrayed them he would be removed and

replaced. Secondly, the manifesto affirmed the nation's

independence in a way no battle could, and justified it with a

truth that is beyond nation and race. Man has a right to freedom

and a duty to defend it with his life. The natural qualifications

put upon this by a medieval Baron are irrelevant, as are the

reservations which slave-owning Americans placed upon their

declaration of indepedence. The truth once spoken cannot be

checked, the seed once planted controls it's own growth, and the

liberty which men secure for themselves must be given by them to

others, or it will be taken as they took it. Freedom is a hardy

plant and must flower in equality.

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