“Fabros ferrarios, carpentarios, macellarios, et carvorum, aprorumque venatores, convenit sociare militia.
[Blacksmiths, carpenters, butchers and deer hunters, such are proper, agreed to join the military.]
VEGET. de rc Militari.
HOW widely does this celebrated and much admired author, amongst the friends of liberty, differ in his military doctrine from that aristocratical faction, who consider an army to be no otherwise useful than to overawe the subject, and to support their own oppressive measures! these invent laws to disarm and expose the people, defenceless on every occasion, those avow the necessity of putting arms into the hands of smiths, carpenters, all sorts of workmen, and of gentlemen that delight in the diversion of hunting the fox, the boar, and the stag? the very doctrine of defence, on which the militia is now established by act of parliament, in South Britain.
The advantages of this establishment, though but in its infancy, have been already manifested in a most extraordinary degree in England. For, though little more than one half of their number has been disciplined and called into actual service., this militia was found effectual to repulse any invader, and to remove the fears of that nation, which, but a few years ago, being obliged to put its whole dependence upon an army of regular mercenaries, was over-run by a handful of undisciplined highlanders.
To this constitutional measure, which our Aristocraticks treat as chimerical, are owing that firmness and dignity of the English in the midst of the most vigorous preparations of their enemies to invade them; that unshaken credit, with which they are able to raise immense sums, required to maintain their property, and to avenge themselves of their enemies; and that improvement in their strength, as, from being driven to the necessity of importing foreign troops for their internal defence, to be in a capacity to employ their regular troops in operations abroad, which have added the greatest lustre and advantage to the British name. The victories at Louisbourg, Minden and Quebeck, are the happy effects of this measure; and will perpetuate to future ages the only means for Britain to maintain her glory, trade, and dominion.
In this delightful prospect, almost bewildered with the infinite blessings, that arise from an army of the people, there is still something wanting to make it compleat, and a something extremely disagreeable to a North-Briton. This deficiency is the want of its establishment in that part of the island called the kingdom of Scotland. For confining the protection by a militia, within the kingdom of England; the whole country north of the Tweed, is left an easy prey to every daring and despicable enterpriser, that can find means to land upon the coast of Scotland.
This was very lately the case: when Thurot’s squadron, that pretty instrument of Gallick insolence, was known to steer a Northern course, how great was the panick in Scotland! The inhabitants, dismayed, fled from their coasts, and more than a million of people, as it were devoted to slaughter, durst not put themselves into a posture of defence, whilst their fellow-subjects in England were prepared against every event, defended by arms, put into the hands of labourers and mechanicks, under the command of fox and stag hunters, &c.
Such a distinction in the politicks of Great Britain, must be confessed very unaccountable. Why a people, united under one and the same King, and entitled to the same protection in their laws, religion and property, should be neglected in the distribution of arms; should not be admitted to a union of strength, should not be put upon an equal footing of defence against a foreign enemy, and against domestick riots and insurrections: should be denied that privilege, which is the grand criterion of liberty: or, why the inhabitants of South Britain are admitted to bear arms, and those in North Britain are not, is a question not to be slightly answered, and deserves the most serious attention and immediate consideration of the legislature, to prevent the hazard and injustice of so great a partiality.
Whence could such a partiality arise? there can be no objection to the military genius of the Scots. They, on all occasions have given proofs, that they yield not the least to the English, or to any other nation, for courage and conduct. No people are less addicted to the vices of the age or more respectful to their superiors: and their gentlemen have given proofs of their courage and military talents.
Is it unconstitutional? Scotland is a free government, and the possession of arms is the distinction of a freeman from a slave. There can be no real security to the liberties of the people; but, that which puts the sword into their own hands. He who is born a freeman and has a property, ought to have arms to defend himself, and what he possesses, in case of need, otherwise he lives precariously, and at the discretion of another, that is more powerful. Whatever is found necessary for internal defence is constitutional; because liberty and property can subsist no longer than they are properly and effectually protected. And as many instances can be produced to prove, that a standing army is unequal to the uses of a free people, they can find defence in no other force, than a militia raised out of their own body.
But they who oppose this measure, say, that a military spirit is inconsistent with the commercial interest of the nation. Hereby labour is deprived of many hands: trade and manufactures will be interrupted: that the wealth of the nation will decay in proportion to the increase of the militia. A mere sophism! can property be preserved without strength? is that contrary to our interest, which is necessary for our safety? is not that form most eligible, which is most powerful and least harmful to industry and labour? if so, a militia is preferable to a standing army; and trade and manufactures gain by the institution thereof; because, by the rotation of the militia men, we have hopes of seeing all the honest men in the nation trained to arms; who, except the few days of exercise, and when the service of the publick require them to take the field, return home and follow their occupations: whereas, those large recruits, raised chiefly out of our manufacturers, artists and labourers, for the army, are generally totally lost to their country, at the conclusion of a war. A militia man inrolled for three years only, can scarce be thought to lose sight of the trade or occupation to which he had been bred; but this will seldom be the case of a soldier after six or seven campaigns.
By extolling the use of a militia, there is no intention to degrade the soldiery. The militia is only designed for internal defence: our foreign interest and power require the arms of our regular forces: without a militia we cannot be secure; and without the additional strength of an army, we cannot be great and respectable on the continent of Europe, nor protect our settlements abroad.
Therefore, as no objection can lie against the establishment of a militia in Scotland, either from the constitution of that government, or from its commercial interest; and as its usefulness is indisputable, why were the Scots excluded from this necessary constitutional means of protection? Why do not they enjoy the benefit of the union in this important article of liberty? Can it be said that they have forfeited their right as Britons? Will not the least hesitation to the establishment of a Scottish militia, carry an imputation, either of cowardice, as if the ancient spirit of that kingdom was quite extinguished; or that it is become a province to England? How such an imputation would be relished by a people, whose ancestors, by arms alone, sustained the reputation and power of their kingdom, is more than I am willing to suggest. It is most probable, that their union with England would never have been effected, had they imagined, that the communication of all the rights, privileges, and advantages, which did then, or might thereafter belong to the subjects of either kingdom, as declared by the fourth article of the treaty of union, should empower their united brethren, the English, to deny them the privilege of arms for their own defence, in the same degree and proportion, as they themselves might at any time enjoy.
Thus obliged by the dangers and fears, that daily haunt a disarmed people, exposed to the ravages of a merciless enemy; and provoked with jealousy and reproach, it is much to be apprehended, that a miscarriage of so reasonable an application to parliament, which the North-Britons are a present making, for a militia, would be productive of great discontent, and at least make them think that it had been better for Scotland, has there been no Union.
All sons of liberty, and enemies to despotick power, heartily join in their good wishes for the success of their petition: and the freeholders and burghers of Scotland, will shortly have it in their power to prefer such of their representatives, as shall, in this instance of national liberty, deserve well of their constituents, and of branding them with disgrace, who, by sapine neglect, or any other way, shall tacitly look on, and betray the rights of their country, to indulge the disposition of a needy or sordid mind.
But, if neither affection for their country, nor the fear of disobliging their constituents, should be effectual to spirit up a true zeal for Scotland’s honour and safety, there is not the least doubt of the friendship of those worthy English patriots and patrons of the militia in South Britain. Like deserted children, those fathers of liberty will take us up; and the unexpected success and advantages they have found in the service of their own militia, will no doubt bring many, who opposed its establishment, at first, in England, to promote its extension to her sister kingdom. As no measure can more effectually contribute towards the happy conclusion of this glorious war, we have all the reason in the world to believe, that the administration will facilitate the proposal: and it was never the character of a British parliament to deny, or to be deaf to, the just claims of their fellow subjects.
Scotland stands more in need of a militia than England. By this establishment, every shire and township would be protected; and those coasts, friths and bays, which were, last year, left naked and exposed to the violence of the enemy, by drawing the regular troops round Edinburgh, when an invasion was meditating from France, might have been secured from those dreadful apprehensions, with which the whole coast was filled, without the power of making the least resistance. Besides, it is well known, that when both kingdoms have been in danger, the fleet and army are more necessarily employed in defence of that part of the island, where wealth and empire demand their assistance.
It has been insinuated that the Scots are a restless, dissatisfied and rebellious people. The terror and disgrace of the years 1715 and 1745, are produced to confirm this imputation, and thereby to prevent a militia act for their kingdom. The injustice of such a charge is most palpable. It is no more equitable to upbraid the Scottish nation with the universal spirit of rebellion, because some of her natives were prevailed upon to favour the designs of France; than to accuse every Englishman of bribery and corruption, because some of them make merchandize of their votes. The simple fact is this: A few thousand of the Highland clans over-run the country; which might, and would have been easily prevented, had the friends of liberty and of government been trusted with arms, and not obliged with grief and indignation to submit to the power of the sword…
Therefore, as there is nothing in a Scottish militia, that can be deemed unconstitutional: nothing but what the Scots have a right to by the act of union: nothing unsafe or dangerous to the present establishment: nothing to injure the commercial interest of the nation; and no more than what is necessary for its internal defence: why should any Englishman object to it? How can any ad—n think it unreasonable, or what should cool the Scots r—pr—s in the support of the people’s petition for arms, in defence of their king and country?
I am, Sir, &c.
– Caledonian Mercury, Monday 31st March, 1760.