WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 31, 1888
The main portion of this issue's report from "THE EAST-END MURDERS…" to "…subscriptions from the public." is reproduced in "News from Whitechapel" page 128. The Telegraph then reported:
A WEAPON of historic dignity, too long separated from the memorial of the hero who bore it, is at last to find its proper resting-place. Application has been made to the War Office authorities to allow the sword of WALLACE, now in the armoury at Dumbarton Castle, to be transferred to the National Wallace Monument, and, their assent having been obtained, the relic will be shortly forwarded to its destination. This step will complete a process of restitution which, it must be admitted with some shame by Englishmen, has accomplished itself by very leisurely stages. WALLACE'S sword will, as we have said, be in its proper place on the Scottish hero's monument, but it might be, and we are sorry to say it has been, in more inappropriate places than the armoury at Dumbarton Castle. It has been south of the Tweed; nay, for aught we know, in the very Tower Armoury itself. Among the innumerable letters from patriotic countrymen with which SCOTT was overwhelmed when at the height of his fame as the author of the Waverley Novels, was one, he records in his Diary for December, 1825, of which the writer "demands of me, in a postscript, to get back the sword of Sir WILLIAM WALLACE from England, where it was carried from Dumbarton Castle. I am not Master-General of the Ordnance, that I know. It was wrong, however, to take away that, and Mons Meg. If I go to London next spring I will renew my negotiation with the Great Duke for Mons Meg." How the Wizard's suit sped in the case of the great gun his biographer records with pride. Shortly after the Duke of WELLINGTON'S accession to power, in 1828, the negotiations for the return of the exiled Meg were brought to a favourable issue, and in March, 1829, "the auld murderess" was drawn, in solemn procession, up the Castle Hill at Edinburgh, to reoccupy her ancient place on the Argyle Battery. Whether SCOTT threw in a petition at the same time for the return of the sword of WALLACE the pages of LOCKHART do not inform us; nor does any contemporary chronicle that we are acquainted with shed light on the question. Let us hope, however, that the sword of the Scottish national champion was not long in following the great piece of ordnance back over the Border, and that the assent of the military authorities to its transfer to the Wallace Memorial will be accepted as tardy amends for its unpardonable detention in the city in which its master met what every good Scotsman is bound to consider his unjust doom. "Haughty EDWARD'S power" was sufficiently vindicated, a Scot may be forgiven for thinking, by the judicial sentence in pursuance of which the head of WALLACE was elevated on a pole upon London Bridge, and the four quarters of his body distributed among the towns of Newcastle, Berwick, Perth, and Aberdeen. It was not necessary to take his sword also, and that so many years after it had been wielded with such valour and devotion in his country's cause. England can, at any rate, restore it now with something more than an acknowledgement of her long delay in this payment of a moral debt. She can, and will, accompany it with a tribute of her hearty admiration for the doughty chief and patriot whom all true Scots delight to honour.
Modern research - that implacable foe of the romantic in history - has scarcely effaced a single honourable lineament in the character or detracted from a single illustrious exploit in the career of WILLIAM WALLACE. It has not even succeeded in the once favourite attempt to disprove the Scottish origin of the Scottish national hero, and to make him out - his countrymen shudder at the profanity - a Welshman. No student - we might almost say no man of intelligence - north of the Tweed will admit a doubt that WALLACE came of a good Renfrewshire family, the WALLACES of Ellerslie, and that he was a younger son of Sir MALCOLM, knight of that name. Undoubtedly he began life as an outlaw, whether because he had killed an Englishman, or for some other peccadillo of that kind, it is difficult to say. Inasmuch, however, as we first hear of him at the head of a band of marauders preying upon the English quarters during the earlier years of EDWARD'S troubled tenure of power through his Scotch vicegerents, it is likely enough that the act which led to the outlawry of WALLACE was something at least as patriotic as the slaughter of one of our intruding countrymen. As to the marauding, so long as depredations were confined to the goods of the English, it constitutes an episode in the annals of any Scotch family to which its modern representatives look back with complacency. The proudest of the Border houses rejoice to trace their lineage to some stout cattle-lifter of the past; and it was an ancestor of the "bauld BUCCLEUGH" whom his satirical Sovereign reminds, in one of the Border Ballads, that if every honest man was still in possession of his own cattle "a right puir clan thine ain would be." WALLACE, as a mere robber captain and harrier of the English during the closing years of the thirteenth century, would have been an interesting figure to every patriotic Scotchman of to-day; but events gave him a great national part to play, and designated him as the representative for all time of those qualities by which alone nations, we will not say rise to greatness - for in that good fortune must co-operate - but escape degeneracy and decline. And, fortunately for the national legend, it is his display of those qualities which is the most undoubted and unmistakably historic part of WALLACE'S career. We might deduct as much as we please from the mythical element, in the tales of his strength and stature, or even from the traditional estimate of his military genius, his faculty of command, and his magnetic power over men. Even then, however, the stern and glorious fact would remain that WALLACE alone among his countrymen refused to despair of his country's cause even in the darkest hour of her fortunes; that, while all others submitted to the conqueror, he betook himself to the woods to maintain there a wild freedom; and that, when there was no other to renew the struggle, he started up at a moment of universal dismay and prostration, and showed by an example precious to all time that even in the worst circumstances no cause is irretrievable while the spirit of hope and effort remains "to defy powers which seem omnipotent, To hope till hope creates From its own wreck the thing it contemplates." No one in history has perhaps more nearly approached to the ideal thus set forth in the noble closing lines of SHELLEY'S "Prometheus" than did WILLIAM WALLACE.
Scotchmen, moreover, do well to give him the foremost place in their Valhalla, as one who died in a cause for which he insured a triumph it was not reserved for him to behold. Several years had to elapse after that barbarous scene at Smithfield before the final liberation of his country from the English was secured; but it was WALLACE who made Bannockburn possible. It was he who kept alive the spirit of Scottish nationality by the memory of his own devotion; and the Scots who bled with WALLACE were in a very real sense fellow-soldiers and fellow-victors with those to whom the BRUCE addresses that summons which the national poet of Scotland has put into his mouth, and which will live for ever as a battle-call on the lips of men. It may have been that WALLACE'S own defects of character, or at any rate those faults common to the time, from which we can hardly suppose him to have been exempt, were in part responsible for the reverses that delayed the final triumph of his country's cause. The older Scotch historians, indeed, had no doubt that this was the case. FORDUN and others unreservedly attribute the loss of the Battle of Falkirk to the dissensions of the national leaders. They relate how WALLACE, STEWART, and COMYN quarrelled "on the punctilio of leading the van of an army which stood on the defensive"; how STEWART compared WALLACE to "ane owl with borrowed feathers"; and how, busied in these altercations, the Scotch commanders had no time to form their army; how COMYN traitorously withdrew with ten thousand men, and how WALLACE followed his example. In these stories there may be much or little truth; we can hardly doubt that they contain an element of fact; but, whatever credit we attach to them, they detract little, if at all, from the conception of the national hero of Scotland as it is justly cherished by his countrymen at the present day. Indeed, it is hardly a paradox to say that the debt of Scotchmen to WALLACE is rather enhanced than otherwise by his having shown how the sovereign virtue of patriotism, and an invincible devotion to a great national cause, could ennoble the character and glorify the death of one who was not in other respects superior to the private ambitions and personal jealousies of the period in which he lived. Nor, indeed, is it to be credited that, however much the quarrels of the Scotch commanders at Falkirk may have interfered with their military dispositions, there was any withdrawal of his troops on the part of WALLACE. Popular legend has it that his mood on the morning of Falkirk was very different from that of a soldier sullenly meditating a retreat; and, having drawn up his troops in order of battle, he "pleasantly said to them, 'Now I have brought you to the ring, dance according to your skill.'" We English, as it turned out, were the better dancers - at least at that particular party; but we are not at all ashamed to admit nowadays that in the "ring" at Bannockburn the position was very thoroughly reversed. And we can even confess, at this distance of time, that it was a good thing for both nations, and a security for their stable and contented union in later years, that such was the case.