Robert the Bruce stumbled out of the Greyfriars Chapel at Dumfries covered with blood and frantically checking to see if any of it was his own. Roger Kirkpatrick rushed to his liege lord’s side. "I doot I hae slain the Red Comyn!" the Bruce said between breaths. "Ye doot? I mak siccar!" (I make sure!) Kirkpatrick replied, as he entered the chapel to do just that. (To this day, the Kirkpatrick crest depicts a dagger dripping blood, with the motto: "I Mak Siccar!")

The Bruce had arranged the parley with his rival for the throne, and now he had what we’d call a problem with optics. His enemies would say it was premeditated, but assassinating a rival in 14th century Scotland was a "dog bites man" story. Thing is, he killed him IN A CHURCH, IN FRONT OF THE ALTAR. Instructions for excommunication were sent from Rome, but the local bishops refused to carry it out; either out of loyalty to the Bruce or out of fear they’d end up with a sgian dubh (knife "black," i.e. hidden) stuck in their ribs, just like the Red Comyn.

To clear the record, in 1320 a group of Scottish nobles sent a letter to the Pope written at Arbroath, extolling Robert’s virtues as a killer of Englishmen. But if he should falter in this, they would "…make some other man who was well able to defend us our King…. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself."

So what do the goings-on long ago in that "pair wee bit o’ hill an’ glen" have to do with us? That streak of fierce – and I mean that literally – independence led to the Scottish Enlightenment, which in turn fueled both our Revolution and our economics (David Hume and Adam Smith were both Scots). For a more thorough treatment, see HOW THE SCOTS INVENTED THE MODERN WORLD by Arthur Herman. Oh, and we should pay tribute to the finest uisge beatha (whiskey) on the planet. And for you partisans of the elixirs of Kentucky and Tennessee shaking your heads, those recipies came from – you guessed it – the Scots.

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