Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/96

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[1291 A.D.-
Robert the Bruce.

barons who took part in this parliamentary act being still alive in 1292, de Brus claimed that they should be examined in support of his averment. De Balliol's answer to this was that, inasmuch as Alexander II. had died seised of the kingdom, and transmitted it by his death to a son, not in existence at the time he designated de Brus as his heir, no right could remain with Robert de Brus in virtue of such designation. Of our historians, Brady, Tyrrel, Hume, Turner, and Lingard are alike totally silent in regard to this remarkable part of de Brus's claim. Tytler mentions it, but without comment; Carte denounces it as "a mere pretence." Lord Hailes enters with some minuteness into its discussion, but concludes against its validity on grounds somewhat extraordinary for such a high judicial authority to take up. He says that de Balliol's answer ought to have been that the opinion and act of Alexander II. could not vary the rules of succession, and that "the constitution of Scotland, and the fate of the competitors, must not depend upon the testimony of witnesses concerning words cursorily heard more than a century ago.... The situation of Alexander II. renders it incredible that he ever uttered the words ascribed to him by Bruce, and which he pretends to prove by the evidence of witnesses, certainly superannuated, and probably not impartial."

But in fact Alexander's act was a proceeding far more deliberate and constitutional than Lord Hailes suspected. Since that writer compiled his Annals, the appeal of the Seven Earls, above quoted, has come to light; by which it appears that the line of