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vents, though certainly' heightened and embellished by poetry, seem, notwithstanding, to have their founda. tion in true history.
Ossian has not only preserved the history of the first Migrations of the Caledonians into Ireland, but has also delivered some important facts concerning the first settlement of the Firbolg, or Belgæ of Britain, in that Bagdom, under their leader Larthon, who was ancestor to Cairbar and Cathmor, who successively mouted the Irish throne, after the death of Cormac, the son of Artbo. I forbcar to transcribe the passage on account of its length. [Book VII. It is the song of Fonar, the bard, towards the latter end of the seventh book of Temora. As the generations from Larthop to Cathmor, to whom the episode is addressed, are not marked, as are those of the family of Conar, the first king of Ireland, we can form no judgment of the time of the settiement of the Firbolg. It is, however, probable, it was some time before the Cael, or Caledonians, settled in Ulster. One important fact may be gathered from the history of Ossian, that the Irish had no king before the latter end of the first century. Fingal lived, it is certain, in the third century; so Conar, the first moDarch of the Irish, who was his grand-uncle, cannot be placed farther back than the close of the first. The establishing of this fact lays at once aside the pretended antiquities of the Scots and Irish, and cuts off the long list of kings which the latter give us for a millenium
Of the affairs of Scotland, it is certain, nothing can į be depended upon prior to the reign of Fergus the son
of Erc, who lived in the fifth century. The true history of Ireland begins somewhat later than that period. Sir James Ware“, who was indefatigable in his researches after the antiquities of his country, rejects, as mere fico non and idle romance, all that is related of the ancient Irish, before the time of St Patrick and the reign of Lcogaire. It is from this consideration, that he begins aus history at the introduction of Christianity, remark
ing, that all that is delivered down concerning the times of Paganism were tales of late invention, strangely mixed with anachronisms and inconsistencies. Such being the opinion of Ware, who had collected, with uncommon industry and zeal, all the real and pretendedly ancient manuscripts concerning the history of his coun: try, we may, on his authority, reject the improbable and self-condemned tales of Keating and OʻFlaherty. Credulous and puerile to the last degree, they have disgraced the antiquities they meant to establish. It is to be wished, that some able Irishman, who understands the language and records of his country, may redeem, ere it be too late, the genuine antiquities of Ireland, from the hands of these idle fabulists.
By comparing the historv preserved by Ossian with the legends of the Scots and Irish writers, and by after. wards examining both by the test of the Roman authors, it is easy to discover which is the most probable. Probability is all that can be established on the authority of tradition, ever dubious and uncertain. But when it favours the hypothesis laid down by cotemporary wri. ters of undoubted veracity, and, as it were, finishes the figure of which they only drew the outlines, it ought, in the judgment of sober reason, to be preferred to accounts framed in dark and distant periods, with little judgment, and upon no authority.
Concerning the period of more than a century, which intervenes between Fingal and the reign of Fergus the son of Erc, or Arcath, tradition is dark and contradictory. Some trace up the family of Fergus to a son of Fingal of that name, who makes a considerable figure in Ossian's Poems. The three elder sons of Fingal, Ossian, Fillan, and Ryno, dying without issue, the succes. sion of course devolved upon Fergus the fourth son, and his posterity. This Fergus, say some traditions, was the father of Congal, whose son was Arcath, the father of Fergus, properly called the first king of Scots, as it was in his time the Cael, who possessed the western coast of Scotland, began to be distinguished by foreignEts by the name of Scots, From thenceforward, the Scots and Picts, as distinct nations, became objects of attention to the historians of other countries. The internal state of the two Caledonian kingdoms has always continued, and ever must remain in obscurity and fable,
It is in this epoch we must fix the beginning of the decay of that species of heroism which subsisted in the days of Ossian. There are three stages in human soci. ety. The first is the result of consanguinity, and the natural affection of the members of a family for one another. The second begins, when property is established, and men enter into associations for mutual defence, against the invasions and injustice of neighbours. Man. kind submit, in the third, to certain laws and subordinations of government, to which they trust the safety of their persons and property. As the first is formed on nature, so, of course, it is the most disinterested and noble. Men, in the last, have leisure to cultivate the mind, and to restore it, with reflection, to a pri. mæval dignity of sentiment. The middle state is the region of complete barbarism and ignorance. About the beginning of the fifth century, the Scots and Picts were advanced into the second stage, and consequently into those circumscribed sentiments, which always dis. tinguish barbarity. The events which soon after happened did not at all contribute to enlarge their ideas, or mend their national character.
About the year 426, the Romans, on account of domestic commotions, entirely forsook Britain, finding it impossible to defend so distant a frontier. The Picts and Scots, seizing this favourable opportunity, made incursions into the deserted province. The Britons, enervated by the slavery of several centuries, and those vices which are inseparable from an advanced state of civility, were not able to withstand the impetuous, though irregular, attacks of a barbarous enemy. In the utmost distress, they applied to their old masters the Romans, and (after the unfortunate state of the empiri could not spare aid) to the Saxons, a nation equally! barous and brave with the enemies of whom they w
so much afraid. Though the bravery of the Saxons re. pelled the Caledonian nations for a time, yet the latter found means to extend themselves considerably towards the south. It is, in this period, we must place the ori. gin of the arts of civil life among the Scots. The seat of government was removed from the mountains to the plain and more fertile provinces of the south, to be near the common enemy, in case of sudden incursions.
Instead of roving through unfrequented wilds, in search of subsistence, by means of hunting, men applied to a. griculture and raising of corn. This manner of life was the first means of changing the national character. The next thing which contributed to it was their mixture with strangers.
In the countries which the Scots had conquered from the Britons, it is probable the most of the old inhabi. tants remained. These incorporating with the conque. tors, taught them agriculture, and other arts, which they themselves nad received from the Romans. The Scots, however, in number as well as power, being the most predominant, retained still their language, and as many of the customs of their ancestors as suited with the nature of the country they possessed. Even the union of the two Caledonian kingdoms did not much af, fect the national character. Being originally descended from the saine stock, the manners of the Picts and Scots were as similar as the different natures of the countries they possessed permitted.
What brought about a total change in the genius of the Scots nation was, their wars and other transactions with the Saxons. Several counties in the puth of Scotland were alternately possessed by the two nations. They were ceded, in the ninth age, to the Scots; and it is probable, that most of the Saxon inhabitants reinained in possession of their lands. During the several conquests and revolutions in England, many fied for refuge into Scotland, to avoid the oppression of foreigners, or the tyranny of domestic usurpers ; in so much, that the Saxon race formed perhaps near one half of the Scottish kingdom, The Saxon manders and lar
guage daily gained ground on the tongue and customs of the ancient Caledonians, till at last the latter were entirely relegated to inhabitants of the mountains, who were still unmixed with strangers.
It was after the accession of territory which the Scots received upon the retreat of the Romans from Britain, that the inhabitants of the Highlands were divided into clans. The king, when he kept his court in the mountains, was considered by the whole nation as the chief of their blood. Their small number, as well as the presence of their prince, prevented these divisions, which afterwards sprung forth into so many separate tribes. When the seat of government was removed to the south, those who remained in the Highlands were, of course, neglected. They naturally form, ed themselves into small societies, independent of one another. Each society had its own regulus, who either was, or in the succession of a few generations, regarded as chief of their blood. The nature of the coun. try favoured an institution of this sort. A few valleys, divided from one another by extensive heaths and im
passable mountains, form the face of the Highlands. - In these vallies the chiefs fixed their residence. Round
them, and almost within sight of their dwellings, were the habitations of their relations and dependents,
The seats of the Highland chiefs were neither disagreeable nor inconvenient. Surrounded with moun, tains and hanging woods, they were covered from the inclemency of the weather. Near them generally ran a pretty large river, which, discharging itself not far ott, into an arm of the sea, or extensive lake, swarmed with variety of fish. The woods were stocked with wild-fowl ; and the heaths and mountains behind them were the natural seat of the red-deer and roe. If we make allowance for the backward state of agriculture, the vallies were not unfertile; affording, if not all the conveniencies, at least the necessaries of life. Here the chief lived, the supreme judge and law-giver of his own
people; but his sway was neither severe nor unjust. | As the populace regarded him as the chief of their blood,