24th of February

St Matthias, the Apostle, Colchis.Saints Montanus, Lucius, Flavian, Julian, Victoricus, Primolus, Rhenus, and Donatian, martyrs at Carthage, 259. St Pretextatus, archbishop of Rouen, martyr, about 585. St Lethard, bishop of Senlis, 596, Canterbury. Robert of Arbrissel, 111.

Born. – John Picus, Count of Mirandola, 1463; Charles V. (of Spain), 1500, Ghent; James Quin, actor, 1693, Covent-garden
Died. – Francis Duke of Lorraine, and General de la Tremouille, killed at Pavia, 1525; Francis Duke of Guise, assassinated, 1563; Joseph (of Portugal), 1777; Charles Buonaparte, 1785; Thomas Coutts, banker, 1822; John VI. (of Portugal), 1826.

On this Day in Other Sources.

Near Roslin is the scene of a battle, or rather of three battles in one day, fought, on the 24th February, 1303, between the Scotch and the English, conflictingly narrated by the historians of the two nations, but painted by those of Scotland in colours not a little flattering to Scottish bravery. During a truce, Ralph Confrey, treasurer to Edward I., invaded Scotland at the head of 30,000 men, well-armed, and mostly horsemen. With a view to plunder, he divided them into three bodies, and, on reaching the neighbourhood of Roslin encamped them in three stations. Hearing of his invasion, Sir Simon Fraser and Sir John Comyn, drew together at Biggar as many men as they could hastily muster, amounting to 8,000, or at most to 10,000; and with these they expeditiously marched in search of the enemy. Falling unexpectedly on the first division of the English, the Scottish forces totally overthrew and routed them, driving those who escaped the sword and capture confusedly back on the second camp. While the Scotch were dividing the spoil, the second English division suddenly alarmed, and in motion, precipitated themselves to the conflict, and met the same fate as the first division. Scarcely had the Scotch begun to take a refreshment, when a third army appeared in view; and though thinned in numbers and exhausted by fatigue, they were strong in the moral energy of having in so brief a space won two battles, and rushing impetuously on the crestfallen reserved body of the English, soon dealt them the carnage and discomfiture with which the other invading bodies had been punished. Blundering tactics on the English side, and skill and animation on the side of the Scotch, thus worked out for the latter the boast of conquering in one day three armies, each of which was fully equal to them in numbers, and probably superior in appointments.

– Gazetteer of Scotland, Lasswade, pp.227-229.

The Queen, also, set out, for Edinburgh, arriving, at Holyrood-house, on the 24th of February, 1565. 

While Elizabeth’s breath fanned Darnley’s sails, his bark glided along, with the wind, and tide. He found, of course, no difficulty in his journey, from Weemys-castle to Dunkeld, where he saw his father; and whence he hastened to Edinburgh, where he arrived, before the Queen.

– Life of Mary, pp.98-126.

Philip Stanfield was hanged at the Market Cross on the 24th of February [1688.] In consequence of a slip of the rope, he came down on his knees, and it was necessary to use more horrible means of strangulation. His tongue was cut out for cursing his father; his right hand was struck off for parricide; his head was spiked on the East Port of Haddington, and his mutilated body was hung in chains between Leith and the city. After a few days the body was stolen from the gibbet, and found lying in a ditch among water. It was chained up again, but was a second time stolen; and in the strangulation on the scaffold, and the being found in a ditch among water, the superstitious saw retributive justice for the murder of which he was assumed to be guilty.

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.274-282.



(To the Editor of the Spectator.)

   SIR – In a Glasgow paper of Saturday last I observe an article under the above most appropriate title, as copied from the Spectator, in which my name appears somewhat conspicuously. If you are in use to open your columns for discussion, I shall be very well pleased to break a lance with you upon the quarrel referred to; but probably you follow the custom of other London journals – strike, and then shut the door? As you profess, however, to consider me ‘a reasonable and rather clever being, with some rather sound notions on modern history,’ perhaps you may find time to consider, and, it may be, to answer a few questions on the subject.  

   Passing over your personal remarks – which may be all very pretty, in their way, but cannot be very interesting to the general reader – what is the question betwixt us? It is this. How far the practice, among your countrymen, of using the terms ‘England’ and ‘English,’ as the proper names of the United Kingdom and its people, illegitimate in itself, or injurious to Scotland and Scotsmen? I affirm this practice to be illegal, injurious, dishonest, and, in the circumstances, historical and otherwise, of the two nations, a ‘swindle.’ You defend it. The issue is a plain one; and, notwithstanding your affected disposition to ‘laugh rather than argue,’ it is quite obvious that you feel it to be a grave one. Let us, then, see how the case stands. By the Treaty of Union between Scotland and England, it was solemnly declared that England, as a State, should cease to exist, on condition that the same rule was applied to Scotland; and it was formally covenanted that there should be a new United Kingdom, under the common appellation of ‘Great Britain,’ the Legislature whereof should be ‘called the Parliament of Great Britain;’ and provisions were carefully made for the preservation and protection of Scotland’s laws, judicature, ecclesiastical polity, and other institutions. At that time Wales was an integral part of the State of England, and Ireland was (unfortunately) what you and others call ‘a dependency of the English Crown.’ A century afterwards Ireland was admitted to the Union. Such is now the position.  

   You assure me you are ‘innocent of any wish to swindle the Scotch out of their nationality.’ But you profess to be surrounded by ‘difficulties.’ There are, you say, ‘three nationalities’ in the Union, the English, Scots, and Irish; and you create, for the nonce, a fourth one, the Welsh – or ‘Taffys’ as you are pleased to call them. In these circumstances, you profess to have great difficulty in finding an appellation to cover the whole; and, after figuring various combinations, made ridiculous on purpose, you come to the conclusion that the simple remedy is, to set aside history and geography, violate the Union Treaty, and make England, as the larger division, stand for the whole. All this is simply an echo of the Times, but let us test it by a few questions. I ask, then,  

  1. What difficulty is there in using the same phraseology in your writings as you find in Government treaties, despatches, and other authoritative documents?
  2. Wherein consists the difficulty of using such terms as the ‘United Kingdom,’ ‘Great Britain,’ ‘Britain,’ ‘British,’ rather than ‘England,’ and ‘English?’
  3. Is there any such superiority in the latter over the former, as to justify the breach of a national covenant of the most solemn character?
  4. As to the case of the Welsh – Are you prepared to exhibit any ‘Treaty of Union between Wales and the rest of England?
  5. Was not Wales a part of the State of England, which contracted with the state of Scotland, just as the Orkneys and Hebrides were parts of Scotland? And if so, what becomes of your fourth nationality?
  6. In what sense can it be said that ‘Britain’ fails to include Wales while ‘England’ does so?
  7. But did not ‘Britain’ embrace England, Wales and Scotland, long before these distinctions were known? Are not the modern Welsh historically ‘Britons,’ independently of the Treaty of Union? And, if so, what warrant have you for assuming that you must insult my countrymen, by insisting upon styling us ‘English’ rather than ‘Britons,’ out of tenderness to the Welsh?
  8. Then, as to Ireland – by what process of reasoning do you make out that ‘England’ embraces Ireland, and ‘Great Britain’ fails to do so?
  9. What is there in the ‘long agony’ of connection between England and Ireland, that should produce, in Irishmen, the desire to be known as English rather than subjects of the modern British empire, under which Irish disabilities have rapidly disappeared, and Irishmen become freemen?
  10. In connexion with this, when did your countrymen become champions of Ireland’s honour, so as to justify a breach of honour towards Scotsmen on the plea of tenderness for Irish feelings? and
  11. In what sense do you make England, as the greater part, stand for the whole, which does not apply a fortiori [from the stronger argument] to the use of ‘Great Britain?’

   When you have considered these questions, Mr Editor, I think you must see that the ‘difficulties’ referred to are but flimsy pretexts to cover that which your countrymen aim at, the absorption of one country in the other; and, in this way, the appropriation, by England, of Scottish energy, enterprise, and genius.  

   But you seek to salve you own conscience, and reconcile my countrymen to the wrong sought to be done them by making a tour throughout Europe and other countries, and showing that there are territories which have been conquered, ceded, annexed, or purchased, and their people merged in the conquerors, or purchasers. Here, again, I would ask –  

  1. What parallel exists between such cases as those of Finland and Poland annexed to Russia; the Tyrol to Austria; or Lorraine, Alsace, and Savoy to France; and the case of Scotland, giving a King to England, and entering into a voluntary national union, under a stipulation by which the specific thing in question was solemnly interdicted?
  2. How is it, sir, that any one allowed to write for the famous Spectator does not instinctively perceive that the very institution of such comparisons goes to prove my case, by furnishing a glaring instance of that whereof I complain – namely, the attempt to degrade my country from her legitimate position to that of a mere province or satellite of her sister kingdom? How is it that you cannot see that to compare Scotland to the conquered, ceded, annexed, or purchased provinces of continental despotisms is an insult which every Scotsman ought to resent?

   Nothing but a self complacency that shuts a man’s eyes, or a pampered egotism that cares nothing for the interests or feelings of others, could render any one blind to this.

   But like Lord Palmerston and Mr Bright, you must needs rely upon the plea of ‘custom and convenience.’ In reply, I would ask –  

  1. Is not this very ‘custom’ the thing complained of? Has not that custom been introduced and maintained by those whom I challenge as the wrong-doers? And, if so, what does your plea amount to but this – ‘The “swindle” you complain of has been successful so far, ergo, we must be allowed to carry it out to completion.’ Pray, what do you think of logic? But –
  2. How can it ever be ‘convenient’ that popular language on such a subject should be placed in direct opposition to the fundamental constitution of the Union?
  3. How can it be convenient that the language of the senate, the platform, or the press, should be placed in such direct opposition to the language of statutes, treaties, despatches, and other authoritative documents?
  4. For example, in what sense can it be convenient that a treaty between the Emperor of France and ‘her Britannic Majesty,’ should, by you and others, be converted into a ‘Commercial Treaty between France and England?’
  5. In what respect is it convenient that, while the text of Earl Russell’s despatches to Paris, Washington, Berlin, or Copenhagen, as daily quoted in the newspapers, speak of ‘Britain,’ the ‘British Government,’ ‘British vessels,’ &c., you and your fellow-journalists in London should carefully substitute a different form of expression, converting the whole into ‘English?’
  6. How can it be otherwise than most ‘inconvenient’ that, in a debate on an address to the Crown (see the Times of 5th inst.), every alternate speaker should change the form of expression – thus demanding the ‘protection of British subjects’ ‘by the influence of England’ – seeking to place an efficient ‘British Minister’ in the ‘Foreign Office of England’ – in case of ‘war with England,’ proposing to send a ‘British squadron’ to vindicate the honour of the ‘flag of England’ – complaining that the ‘English Cabinet’ does not represent ‘the policy which the British nation prefers’ – and so on through the whole notes of a discordant gamut? Nay, that individual speakers should produce such sentences as this:- Mr Disraeli – ‘I believe the general impression in Germany, as well as Denmark, was that the bias of the British Government was in favour of Germany; and any one who happened to be in that country at the time must be aware that the despatch was look upon as indicating the policy of the English Government?

   I could multiply such specimens of ‘convenience’ without end; but content myself, at present, with sending you some Glasgow papers, containing leading articles, extracts from London journals, including the Spectator, copies of despatches, letters from correspondents, and telegrams of latest news, in which you will find as beautiful a specimen of the Mosaic as the eyes of an artist could desire. In particular, in the Glasgow Herald of this date, you will find a leader from the Times, in which, marvellous to tell, everything is ‘British,’ our ‘Government,’ ‘ports,’ ‘colonies,’ ‘vessels,’ ‘sailors,’ ‘subjects,’ and ‘flags’- while in  a parallel column you have a leader from the Saturday Review in which ‘England’ and ‘the English’ once more take an entire possession of the stage.  

  1. When a union embraces territories geographically separate, ‘different nationalities’ with distinct histories, and, as regards England and Scotland, distinct institutions, requiring often separate legislation, and language in conformity, is it not, upon its face, a palpable inconvenience, to adopt an appellation for the whole, which must of necessity frequently mean only a part? and seek to discard an appellation that, without violence, covers the Union? Of this you have a specimen, also in parallel columns, in extracted matter in The Morning Journal of the 12th.

   Having thus ‘argued the point’ interrogatively, I must leave it for the present. That which you call convenient, I have ventured to christen as the ‘piebald style.’ I am aware there are those, even amongst ourselves, who seek to defend it on the maxim of the clown that ‘motley’s your only wear.’ But I can scarcely suppose the Spectator will deliberately adopt such a costume. So much for the plea of ‘custom and convenience.’ – I am, &c., 


   Belmont, Dowanhill, Glasgow, Feb. 13, 1864.” 

– Glasgow Morning Journal, Wednesday 24th February, 1864.

– Treaty of Union Articles, Collection of William Burns on the Attempt of English Centralisation.

Full of years and honour, Dr. Thomas Guthrie died 24th February, 1873.

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.87-94.

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