State and Society in Early Modern Scotland

By Julian Goodare | Go to book overview

9 State Power

As to the estate of this country since I can remember this 29 years it was never so calm and quiet as it is at the present. No man living can say he has either seen or heard tell of so great reverence, fear, and regard in this land to the authority, to the laws and to justice, as is at the present. [The king] might now freely deal with every subject according to his merit, give the law not only to every one of us in particular but even to us all, if they were never so many of us, nor so great, would seem to be mutin or rebellious; the which was able to make obedience, peace, and justice to flourish and to bring wealth amongst us.1

The late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries were a crucial phase in the formation of the Scottish state. It not only became a more fully sovereign state, but also developed a larger and more integrated network of public authority, able to enforce the will of the government. By about 1625, all Lowland Scots, even the formerly autonomous nobility and clergy, could now be expected not just to acknowledge the authority of the crown, but to obey the law of the state. That law, moreover, covered a wide and increasing range of activities.

Probably few of those involved had a conscious sense that these changes were creating something new, because of the intensely conservative formulas in which the newborn state was swaddled; but some did. James VI's chancellor in 1605, the earl of Dunfermline, was one of them. Even at a discount for hyperbole, Dunfermline's remarks above display a consciousness of solid achievement. Then there is James himself, whose 'vaunt' that he was the first monarch to govern Scotland with his pen is often

____________________
1
Dunfermline to Cecil, 20 Apr. 1605, HMC, Salisbury, xvii. 149-50. The reference to 'this 29 years' may mean 'since my 21st birthday'.

-286-

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State and Society in Early Modern Scotland
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS vii
  • Contents ix
  • CONVENTIONS AND ABBREVIATIONS xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Sovereignty 11
  • 2 - The Roots of Authority 38
  • 3 - The Absolutist State 66
  • 4 - Finance 102
  • Warfare 133
  • 6 - Religion 172
  • 7 - Territory 214
  • 8 - The Borders and Highlands 254
  • 9 - State Power 286
  • Perspectives on State Formation 312
  • SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY 343
  • Index 359
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