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JAMES THE SIXTH.
It is doubtful whether there ever was a prince to whom, while living, the press was more lavish of fulsome adulation, than James the Sixth of Scotland and First of Great Britain. Even language itself appears to have been at a loss for epithets to shew forth the matchless qualities ascribed to him. The senate house of the planets was said to have been convened at his birth, to bestow upon him all possible perfections; his government was rarely spoken of but as the quintessence of skill in ruling; and whenever he moved abroad, it was to refresh the hills and groves with the dew of his presence. Nor was this heathenish incense confined to needy men of little minds. Writers of the greatest genius and writers of none, were equally extravagant and profuse in their praises.
The most profound philosopher that England ever perhaps produced, has, in his Essay on the Advancement of Learning, spoken of James in terms which the meanest pretender to letters of the present day would be ashamed to father.
It is probably true, as the Jesuit Gratian remarks, that “there is no prince, however contemptible or vicious, who will not find flatterers to extol him as one of the first of men, nay, almost to revere him as a God."'* It is not always, however, that men, whose praise is worth regarding, are to be prevailed upon to play the flatterer's part. When we do find individuals, eminent for their genius and discernment, sacrificing their honor and sincerity at the shrine of royalty, it is a proof of something more than personal meanness. The fact is a type of a degraded age. It marks a time, when, even to the ablest of men, the only way to preferment was to cringe and flatter; when truth and liberty had as yet little or nothing to do with the direction of national concerns; when hereditary wisdom and divine right were the only acknowledged sources of a people's prosperity. It is, as Apollonius saith, "for slaves to lie, and for freemen to speak truth.”
The period when James flourished may indeed be regarded as the twilight state of British freedom. The beautiful image of Milton had still to be realized. The eagle had still to “kindle her undazzled eyes at the full mid-day beam; to purge and unscale her long abused sight at the fountain of heavenly radiance."
Although the contemporary flatterers of James had their apology in the spirit of the age in which they lived, there have been others, who, without any such apology, have been nearly as partial to his character. The acute, but faithless, Hume, has, in our own day of just and liberal notions, had the boldness to declare that a reign “more unspotted and unblemished" than that of James does not adorn the British annals.
It would be more singular to share in such an opinion, than to differ from it. The spots and blemishes in James's character will be found to be numerous, and, like the stains of Rizzio's blood in his mother's chamber, not to be washed out.
James was the son of Queen Mary, by her ill-fated husband and cousin, Henry Lord Darnley, and was born in Edinburgh Castle on the 19th June, 1566.
In the following year, his mother being forced to resign the crown, James was proclaimed king, and the Earl of Morton, who was at the head of the insurgents, was appointed regent. The infant prince was sent to Stirling Castle, to be brought up under the charge of the Earl and Countess of Mar. As he grew in years, the Earl of Mar's brother, Alexander Erskine, became the chief superintendant of his education ; and under him four preceptors were employed, the celebrated George Buchanan, Peter Young, (afterwards knighted) and the two abbots of Cambuskenneth and Dryburgh, both related to the noble family of Mar. “ Alexander Erskine,” says Sir James Melvil, “ was a gallant well-natured gentleman, loved and honoured by all men, for his good qualities and great discretion; no ways factious nor envious; a lover of all honest men, and desirous ever to see men of good conversation about the prince, rather than his own nearer friends, if he found them not so meet. The two abbots were wise and modest. My lady Mar was wise and sharp, and held the king in great awe ; and so did Mr. George Buchanan. Mr. Peter Young was more gentle, and was loath to offend the king at any time ; carrying himself warily, as a man who had a mind to his own weal, by keeping of his majesty's favour; but Mr. George was a stoic philosopher, who looked not far beforehand ; a man of notable endowments for his learning and knowledge of Latin poesy ; much honoured in other countries, pleasant in conversation, rehearsing at all occasions moralities short and instructive, whereof he had abundance, inventing where he wanted.”
James appears to have been, in his youth, of a very docile but timid disposition : he was an apt scholar, and soon acquired a proficiency in letters which reflected no discredit on his instructors. Buchanan, in a manly dedication to the young monarch, of his treatise, De Jure Regni, written when James was in his thirteenth year, speaks of him in the following favorable terms : “I have deemed its publication,' he
says, “expedient, that it may at once testify my zeal for your service, and admonish you of your duty to the community. Many circumstances tend to convince me that my present exertions will not prove fruitless; especially your age, yet uncorrupted by perverse opinions; a disposition above your years, spontaneously urging you to every noble pursuit; a facility in obeying not only your preceptors, but all prudent monitors ; a judgment and dexterity in disquisition, which prevent you from paying much re