Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION I: Of the Government of Scotland, from the Time when Britain was abandoned by the Romans, to the Reign of Malcolm the Second. - An Historical View of the English Government
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SECTION I: Of the Government of Scotland, from the Time when Britain was abandoned by the Romans, to the Reign of Malcolm the Second. - John Millar, An Historical View of the English Government 
An Historical View of the English Government, From the Settlement of the Saxons in Britain to the Revolution in 1688, in four volumes, edited by Mark Salber Philips and Dale R. Smith, introduction by Mark Salber Philips (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006).
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Of the Government of Scotland, from the Time when Britain was abandoned by the Romans, to the Reign of Malcolm the Second.
During this early period, little is known with certainty; and we must be satisfied with a delineation, from probable conjecture,6 of the bare outlines and prevailing character of<16> the Scottish government. The appropriation of land gave rise in Scotland, as well as in the other countries of Europe, to several distinctions in the condition and rank of the people. The owner of a landed estate obtained universally an authority over all those persons whom he maintained upon his property. Those who acquired considerable estates were led to distribute a part of them among their kindred and followers, under conditions of military service, and to put the remainder under the management of servants employed in the several branches of agriculture. The people subsisting upon any estate came thus to be composed of the master, or proprietor, of the vassals who attended him in war, and of the peasants by whose labour his household was supported. As the whole kingdom comprehended a number of landed estates, disposed and regulated in the same manner, and differing only in the degrees of their magnitude, the whole people, exclusive of the clergy, were divided into these three orders of men.
It is probable, however, that in Scotland the peasantry, in proportion to the collective body of the nation, were less numerous than<17> in England; and that their condition was less abject and servile. They were less numerous; because agriculture was in a lower state, and a great proportion of the country was employed merely in pasturage. Their condition was less abject and servile; because, as the country had never been conquered, like the provinces of the western empire, there had been no opportunity, by captivity in war, of reducing a great part of the inhabitants into a state of absolute slavery.
In all rude countries, those who earn subsistence by their labour are apt to feel much dependence upon the person who employs them; and there can be no doubt that in Scotland, as well as in the neighbouring feudal kingdoms, the peasants were considered as inferior in rank to the military tenants. But they appear to have been less distinguished by peculiar marks of inferiority; less disqualified from serving their master in war; and more capable, by their industry and good behaviour, of bettering their circumstances. It should seem, accordingly, that the distinction between the villeins and the military tenants was earlier abolished in Scotland than in England. In the latter country, the<18> copy-holders, the remains of the ancient villeins, are still considered as inferiour in rank to the free-holders, or military tenants; and are not, even at this day, admitted to a full participation of the same political rights: whereas in Scotland, no such class of men as the copy-holders have any existence; nor in the present laws and customs of that country are any vestiges of the primeval villanage to be found.
As the state of property in Scotland was very similar to that which took place in the other countries of modern Europe, the form of government resulting from it was in all probability nearly the same. The proprietor of every landed estate was the natural governour of the district which it comprehended. He was the military leader, and the civil magistrate, of all the people who lived upon it. These proprietors, originally independent of each other, were led by degrees into a confederacy, or political union, more or less extensive according to circumstances.
In England the proprietors in the same neighbourhood were united in a town or village, commonly called a tything. Ten of these villages are said to have been associated in form-<19>ing an hundred or centenary; and an arbitrary number of these hundreds formed a shire or county. These districts were subordinate one to another: and in each of them there was appointed a military leader; by whom, with concurrence of the several free proprietors, all its political concerns were transacted. The proprietors of the different shires were united under a king, their great military leader; by whom they were occasionally called to deliberate, in the last resort, upon the legislative, executive, or judicial business of the nation.
It is highly probable that this political arrangement, so natural and simple, took place in Scotland, as well as in England, and in other kingdoms upon the neighbouring continent; though, from the deficiency and imperfection of the Scottish records, a complete proof of it can hardly be adduced. The name of tything is scarcely to be found in the ancient monuments or histories of Scotland; but there are clear vestiges of the most important regulations connected with that institution. A tything in England, as well as upon the continent of Europe, was in reality a town or village divided into ten parts; and in the towns or villages of<20> Scotland, as I had occasion to observe in a former part of this inquiry, the whole of the inhabitants were liable to make a pecuniary compensation for the crimes committed by any individual. This affords a distinct evidence of the intimate union subsisting among the members of those little societies, which were the basis of the more extensive combinations.
The institution of hundreds can scarcely be traced in Scotland; but the division of the whole kingdom into shires, or counties, each under its own governour, the alderman or earl, and afterwards his deputy the sheriff, seems to be fully ascertained; nor can there be any reason to doubt, that the political business of the nation was ultimately determined by a great council, corresponding to the Wittenagemote in England. This council was in all probability composed of the free or allodial proprietors of land; was called by the king in any important emergency; and exercised an authority which pervaded all the different branches of government.
The aristocratical nature of this constitution, which placed the supreme power in the independent proprietors of land, is abundantly<21> manifest. It is probable that, in the course of time, it became gradually more aristocratical than it had originally been. Upon the first appropriation of land, it is natural to suppose that the occupiers were numerous, and the estates of individuals proportionably moderate. But in the turbulent and disorderly state of the country, men of small property were unable to defend their possessions; and therefore found it necessary to resign their estates into the hands of some powerful neighbour, and to hold them for the future as his vassals upon conditions of military service. In this manner the number of independent proprietors was gradually diminished; the foundation of political influence was more and more contracted; and the right of sitting in the national assembly was at length limited to a few individuals who had accumulated great estates.<22>
[6. ]Millar refers here to the “conjectural” method that was a prominent feature of Scottish historical thought in the eighteenth century. In addition to Millar’s own work The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks, the outstanding examples of conjectural history were Adam Ferguson’s Essay on the History of Civil Society (1767) and Lord Kames’s Sketches of the History of Man (1774).