The patriotic principle which seems at this time to have entirely deserted the highest ranks of the Scottish nobles, whose selfish dissensions had brought ruin and bondage upon their country, still burned pure in the breasts of these broken men and rebels, as they are termed by Edward. The lesser barons, being less contaminated by the money and intrigues of England, preserved also the healthy and honest feelings of national independence; and it happened, that at this time, and out of this middle class of the lesser barons, arose an extraordinary individual, who, at first driven into the field by a desire to avenge his individual injuries, within a short period of time, in the reconquest of his native country, developed a character which may, without exaggeration, be termed heroic. This" was William Wallace, or Walays, the second son of Sir Malcolm Wallace of Ellerslie, near Paisley, a knight, whose family was ancient, but neither rich nor noble.
In those days bodily strength and knightly prowess were of the highest consequence in commanding respect and ensuring success. Wallace had an iron frame. His make, as he grew up to manhood, approached almost to the gigantic; and his personal strength was superior to the common run of even the strongest men. His passions were hasty and violent; a strong hatred to the English, who now insolently lorded it over Scotland, began to show itself at a very early period of his life; and this aversion was fostered in the youth by an uncle, a priest, who, deploring the calamities of his country, was never weary of extolling the sweets of liberty, and lamenting the miseries of dependence.