Gateway to the Classics: Scotland's Story by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
Scotland's Story by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall

James VI.—New Scotland

For many years, daring sailors had been making voyages into unknown seas, and many new lands had been discovered. When these sailors came home with their wonderful tales of unknown countries, those who listened to them longed to sail away to see these strange places for themselves. People who were discontented or unhappy, people who were poor, people who were restless and longed for adventures, people who were hardly treated because of their religion, all went over the seas hoping to find happiness or wealth, peace or excitement. So there arose in the New World, as it was called, a New England, a new France, a new Spain.

Scotland was a small country, and for many years brave Scotsmen had been in the habit of leaving their own land, to look for fame in other lands. In every country of Europe, they were to be found fighting other people's quarrels. But now that the New World had been discovered, there seemed to be no reason why there should not be a New Scotland, as well as a New England, where Scotsmen, instead of fighting for other countries, might work for their own.

So in 1621 a.d. , James gave a large piece of land in America to a Scotsman called Sir William Alexander. He also said, that to encourage people to go to this new colony (as a new country which is peopled by an old country is called) he would make every one who would go there, and who would take with him a certain number of others, a baronet. That is, he would give the title of "Sir" to him, and to his sons after him.

Sir William Alexander was a poet as well as a statesman, and some people laughed at him. He was not content to be King among poets, they said, he must make himself King of some New-found-land, and, like another King Arthur, he must have his knights.

In spite of much laughter, Sir William went on with his plans. He called the land Nova Scotia, which is Latin, and means New Scotland. After a good deal of delay, he got a ship fitted out and sent off to New Scotland with colonists. But it was now so late in the year, and the storms were so bad, that when they arrived at Nova Scotia, they could not land, but were driven back to Newfoundland, which lies not far off. There they landed, and the ship in which they had come went home, leaving them in that far-off country.

During the winter they had many hardships. Their minister died, and so did their blacksmith, and most of the others scattered among the people of Newfoundland, trying to earn a living by fishing.

In the spring, the ship came back with more people, and a colony was really started. They built a fort and a little town of wooden houses round it. But misfortune after misfortune came upon them, and after struggling for some years, Sir William gave up all his claim to the land to a Frenchman called de la Tour, who had married an English lady. But de la Tour promised that the colony should still belong to the King of Scotland.

The French had also colonies in America, and after this, Nova Scotia changed hands many times. Sometimes it belonged to the French, sometimes to the British, until at last, in 1713 a.d. , it was given back to Britain, and has belonged to Britain ever since.

Long ago, perhaps, it has been forgotten that this was ever a Scottish colony. But the place where the first colonists built was for many years called the Scottish Fort, and the place where it stood is still pointed out. The name too of Nova Scotia remains to remind us of it. If you look on the map of Canada you will see it.

In 1625 a.d. James vi. died. He had reigned for fifty-seven years, during nineteen of which his mother, Queen Mary, still lived.

He was not in the least like any of the gallant Jameses who had gone before him. He was something of a coward, and he could not bear even to see a drawn sword. He was ugly and dirty, and it is said never washed his hands. He was clever without being truly wise, so that he has been called the "British Solomon," and "the wisest fool in Christendom."

Like James i. and James v. , James vi. wrote books. In one of these books he set down his ideas of how kings ought to rule, in another, he wrote against smoking. Sir Walter Raleigh, one of Queen Elizabeth's courtiers, had made voyages into far countries and had brought back tobacco with him. It soon became the fashion to smoke. Many people thought it a strange fashion. James thought it a disgusting one, and did all he could to stop it. "It was," he said, "A custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, and dangerous to the lungs."

I am afraid that people did not pay much attention to him.

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