It was certain that no appeal from a Scotch King's court to that of his supposed overlord had been allowed since the days of William the Lion, and the judicial independence of Scotland had been expressly reserved in the marriage treaty. But in feudal jurisprudence the right of ultimate appeal was the test of sovereignty. This right of appeal Edward now determined to enforce, and Balliol at first gave way. It was alleged, however, that the resentment of his baronage and people forced him to resist; and while appearing formally at Westminster he refused to answer an appeal save by advice of his Council. He was in fact looking to France, which, as we shall afterwards see, was jealously watching Edward's proceedings, and ready to force him into war. By a new breach of customary law Edward summoned the Scotch nobles to follow him in arms against this foreign foe. But the summons was disregarded, and a second and formal refusal of aid was followed by a secret alliance with France and by a Papal absolution of Balliol from his oath of fealty.
Edward was still reluctant to begin the war, when all hope of accommodation was ended by the refusal of Balliol to attend his Parliament at Newcastle, the rout of a small body of English troops, and the investment of Carlisle by the Scots. Orders were at once given for an advance upon Berwick. The taunts of its citizens stung the King to the quick. "Kynge Edward, waune thou havest Berwick, pike thee; waune thou havest geten, dike thee," they shouted from behind the wooden stockade, which formed the only rampart of the town. But the stockade was stormed with the loss of a single knight, and nearly eight thousand of the citizens were mown down in a ruthless carnage, while a handful of Flemish traders who held the town-hall stoutly against all assailants were burned alive in it. The massacre only ceased when a procession of priests bore the host to the King's presence, praying for mercy, and Edward with a sudden and characteristic burst of tears called off his troops; but the town was ruined for ever, and the great merchant city of the North sank from that time into a petty seaport.
At Berwick Edward received Balliol's defiance. "Has the fool done this folly?" the King cried in haughty scorn. " If he will not come to us, we will come to him." The terrible slaughter, however, had done its work, and his march was a triumphal progress. Edinburgh, Stirling, and Perth opened their gates, Bruce joined the English army, and Balliol himself surrendered and passed without a blow from his throne to an English prison. No further punishment, however, was exacted from the prostrate realm. Edward simply treated it as a fief, and declared its forfeiture to be the legal consequence of Balliol's treason. It lapsed in fact to the overlord, and its earls, barons, and gentry swore homage in Parliament at Berwick to Edward as their king. The sacred stone on which its older sovereigns had been installed, an oblong block of sandstone, which legend asserted to have been the pillow of Jacob as angels ascended and descended upon him, was removed from Scone and placed in Westminster by the shrine of the Confessor. It was enclosed by Edward's order in a stately seat, which became from that hour the coronation chair of English kings.
To the King himself the whole business must have seemed another and easier conquest of Wales, and the mercy and just government which had followed his first success followed his second also. The government of the new dependency was entrusted to Warenne, Earl of Surrey, at the head of an English Council of Regency. Pardon was freely extended to all who had resisted the invasion, and order and public peace were rigidly enforced. But both the justice and injustice of the new rule proved fatal to it; the wrath of the Scots, already kindled by the intrusion of English priests into Scotch livings, and by the grant of lands across the border to English barons, was fanned to fury by the strict administration of law, and the repression of feuds and cattle-lifting. The disbanding, too, of troops, which was caused by the penury of the royal exchequer, united with the licence of the soldiery who remained to quicken the national sense of wrong. The disgraceful submission of their leaders brought the people themselves to the front. In spite of a hundred years of peace the farmer of the Lowlands and the artisan of the towns remained stout-hearted Northumbrian Englishmen; they had never consented to Edward's supremacy, and their blood rose against the insolent rule of the stranger.
The genius of an outlaw knight, William Wallace, saw in their smouldering discontent a hope of freedom for his country, and his daring raids on outlying parties of the English soldiery roused the country at last into revolt. Of Wallace himself, of his life or temper, we know little or nothing; the very traditions of his gigantic stature and enormous strength are dim and unhistorical. But the instinct of the Scotch people has guided it aright in choosing Wallace for its national hero. He was the first to assert freedom as a national birthright, and amidst the despair of nobles and priests to call the people itself to arms. At the head of an army drawn principally from the coast districts north of the Tay, which were inhabited by a population of the same blood as that of the Lowlands, Wallace, in September, 1297, encamped near Stirling, the pass between the north and the south, and awaited the English advance. The offers of John of Warenne were scornfully rejected: "We have come," said the Scottish leader, "not to make peace, but to free our country." The position of Wallace, a rise of hills behind a loop of Forth, was in fact chosen with consummate skill.
The one bridge which crossed the river was only broad enough to admit two horsemen abreast; and though the English army had been passing from daybreak, only half its force was across at noon when Wallace closed on it and cut it after a short combat to pieces in the sight of its comrades. The retreat of the Earl of Surrey over the border left Wallace head of the country he had freed, and for a time he acted as "Guardian of the Realm " in BallioPs name, and headed a wild foray into Northumberland. His reduction of Stirling Castle at last called Edward to the field. The King, who marched northward with a larger host than had ever followed his banner, was enabled by treachery to surprise Wallace, as he fell back to avoid an engagement, and to force him to battle near Falkirk. The Scotch force consisted almost wholly of foot, and Wallace drew up his spearmen in four great hollow circles or squares, the outer ranks kneeling, and the whole supported by bowmen within, while a small force of horse were drawn up as a reserve in the rear. It was the formation of Waterloo, the first appearance in our history since the day of Senlac of "that unconquerable British infantry," before which chivalry was destined to go down.