Scotland wasn’t Conquered, Ceded to, or Occupied by England

[Treaty of Union Articles Contents]

“Scottish Independence.



   In commenting upon the movement in favour of Scottish Nationality, last week, we alluded to the ‘Address to the People of Scotland,’ issued by the National Association for the Vindication of Scottish Rights – the chief object of which was to demonstrate the real basis upon which ‘the Kingdom of Scotland’ consented to unite with ‘the Kingdom of England.’ We now subjoin the chief passages of this remarkable document.

   The Address commences with the following dignified statement of the intrinsic qualities upon which Scottish independence rested down to the period of the Union:-

   We may assume – and certainly not unfairly – that Scotland, down to the period of her union with England, did her duty in maintaining her national independence and her national institutions. She showed to the world the example of a small and thinly-people country, in the immediate vicinity of a wealthy, powerful, and hostile nation, preserving her own national integrity. She repelled foreign dictation and interference. She chose to rule and govern herself after her own manner, and to develop for herself such germs of excellence as Providence had endowed her with. She had no claim to the admiration of the world from the extent of her territory, the number of her inhabitants, the sources of her wealth, or the conquests she had achieved. She was not great in any of the accidents of her geographical position, the fertility of her soil, the richness of her mines, or her convenience for trade – in none of these had she any advantage. On the contrary, she was a wild and comparatively poor country. Yet was she a noble country – fearless at home, respected abroad, renowned wherever intellect or valour were held in estimation. The universities of Europe were advancing a knowledge under Scottish professors, while the Scottish soldier was seen foremost in every hard-won field. Nature had sparingly accorded her a subsistence in return for honest and incessant toil – yet nature had endowed her with MEN – with men who stood in the presence of the great world and gave place to none. She had appeared since the downfall of the Roman Empire – she had succumbed to none – been conquered by none – enslaved by none, England, that had seen the fields of Agincourt and of Crecy in France – that could march at one time from the Tweed to the Pyrenees, had found in Scotland – Bannockburn.

   Scotland, so long as she trusted herself, governed herself, acted for herself, and developed her own resources, was a nation full of life, and energy, and enterprise – rough and unmanageable, it is true, but endowed with a vigorous manhood that forced its way through a world of difficulties, and achieved great ends, because it chose its own path and pursued its own career.

   Reminiscences like these naturally suggest the beneficial influence of ‘native rule and native rulers,’ not merely in a theoretical point of view, but as a plain matter of fact. Our Celtic kinsmen assert this proposition very emphatically:-

   Such we believe to be the universal experience of every country. Where the affairs of a nation are managed by the men of the nation, industry and economy prevail in all departments, and the course of the nation is brightened by the sunshine of prosperity. But where the affairs of one nation are managed by the men of another, or by a party within the nation itself, separated from the common weal, and isolated from the general pulsation of good and evil – by a party who neither thrive with national prosperity nor suffer with national disaster – then is the nation neglected or misruled, turned into an instrument of profit or ambition, patriotism is unknown, and a treacherous and mechanical policy is substituted for a fostering and righteous rule.

   There may, indeed, be a Union between the two countries without endangering the independence of either, admits the Address. But this ‘Union’ must not lapse into a ‘domination.’ The destruction of the generic peculiarities of a people is national death:-

   Self-government and self-administration are not, however, incompatible with union. The more union the better, provided it be based on true principles, and the rights of all parties be respected. Union obviates war, encourages commerce, permits of free transits, abolished national antipathy. Union – provided it be union and not domination – brings equals together for common benefit, enlarges human sympathies, throws down the barriers to brotherhood, stimulates to honourable competition, and teaches each nation that it is only one phase or development of social humanity, by exhibiting the virtues and peculiarities of another, possessing peculiar merits of its own. Providence, in endowing different nations with different ethnological characters, has laid the groundwork of a higher perfection than could be attained by any one race. The world is neither Scottish, English, nor Irish, neither French, Dutch, nor Chinese, but human, and each nation is only the partial development of a universal humanity. These peculiarities, however, are the germs of national excellence, and in their proper cultivation lies the secret of permanent success. Thus all genuine advancement, all true progress, consists not in the eradication of the generic peculiarities of races, but in the wise direction of those peculiarities. England will not be better by becoming French, or German, or Scotch, but by becoming more truly and more nobly English; and Scotland will never be improved by being transformed into an inferior imitation of England, but by being made a better and a truer Scotland. All imitation is in its own nature vulgar and unmanly; it breeds only fops and hypocrites, converts men into apes, and truth into fiction.

   There are three methods by which a nation acquires new territory – by Conquest, Cession, or Occupation as a Colony. But neither of these influenced the compact under which Scotland became united to England. The ‘two Kingdoms’ entered under the treaty of Union upon conditions of perfect equality:- 

   ‘These are the three methods by which a country is supposed to acquire new territory. But by none of these were England and Scotland united. Their union was not an occupation – for Scotland was already peopled by men who could maintain their rights against all comers; it was not a conquest, because England could not conquer, and because Scotland would not yield. It was Union – Union free and independent – on equal terms – with equal duties – with equal responsibilities, and with equal rights. Scotland was not more united to England than England was united to Scotland – she was neither absorbed, nor amalgamated, nor incorporated, nor annexed – any more than England was absorbed, amalgamated, incorporated, or annexed. The two were UNITED – brought together on equal terms – conjoined on a free footing. Neither laid down arms to the other, but both agreed to disarm simultaneously, and to shake hands after long hostility. Scotland, at the period of the Union, was neither suppliant, nor in debt, nor unable to defend herself. She was free and independent, and freely and independently she agreed to unite to England for the common advantage. She agreed to merge her own government for the purpose of forming part of a greater kingdom, on condition that England should form part on the same terms. What Scotland was to do, England was to do – what England was to receive, Scotland was to receive – all in just and due proportions. They were two kingdoms united into one, to be governed by the same rule and the same parliament. 

   Here are the provisions of the treaty, which were designed to preserve the self-control of the Scottish nation from the centralizing propensities of England:- 

   ‘By the 6th article of the Treaty of Union it is provided that “all parts of the United Kingdom for ever, from and after the Union, shall have the same allowances, encouragements, and drawbacks,” and also that they shall ‘be under the same prohibitions, restrictions, and regulations of trade, and liable to the same customs, and duties, and import and export.’ 

   ‘By the 16th article it is provided that the coin shall be continued in Scotland under the same rules as the mint in England. 

   ‘By the 17th article it is provided that the weights and measures shall be the same throughout the United Kingdom. 

   ‘By the 18th article it is provided, ‘that the laws concerning regulation, trade, customs, and such excises, to which Scotland is by virtue of this treaty to be liable, be the same in Scotland, from and after the Union, as in England, and that all other laws in use within the kingdom of Scotland do after the Union, and notwithstanding thereof, remain in the same force as before (except such as are contrary to the Treaty), but alterable by the Parliament of Great Britain, with this difference between the laws concerning public right, polity, and civil government, and those which concern private right, that the laws which concern public right, polity, and civil government, may be made the same throughout the whole United Kingdom but that no alteration may be made in laws which concern private right, except for evident utility of the subjects within Scotland.’ 

   ‘The 19th article provides that the Court of Session be continued in all time coming within Scotland, that the Court of Admiralty be continued, and that there shall always be continued a Court of Admiralty, and that all other courts do remain – and that all inferior courts remain subordinate to the supreme courts in Scotland, and that no causes in Scotland be cognisable by the Courts of Chancery, Queen’s Bench, Common Pleas, or any other court in Westminster-Hall. 

   ‘The 21st article provides, that the rights and privileges of the Royal Burghs in Scotland as they are, do remain entire after the Union, and notwithstanding thereof. 

   ‘The 24th article provides, that a seal in Scotland after the Union be always kept, and made use of in all things relating to private rights or grants, which have usually passed the great seal of Scotland, and which only concern offices, grants, commissions, and private rights within that kingdom. 

   ‘If written language have any meaning at all, these articles emphatically maintain the equality of Scotland, and the independence of her Administration, except only in those matters that concern the whole empire. In all that concerned the empire she was to be relatively equal – in all that concerned her local administration, she was to have local courts, local powers, and a local executive. It was provided that her local courts could be altered and revised by the United Parliament, but it was not provided that they could be abolished. England was to carry on her national business, through institutions that already existed in England – and Scotland was to carry on her national business by the institutions that already existed in Scotland.’ 

   The document winds up by invoking the Scottish people to make a unanimous assertion of their independence, as the only means whereby the ‘land of mountain and of flood’ may be prevented from sinking into the position of an English county:-

   ‘Assuredly the time has come when Scotland must take one of two alternatives. She must either sink the question of her nationality, or she must resolve to maintain what legally and justly belongs to her. A united effort alone can save us from sinking into the position of an English county. It is not by squabbling among ourselves as to which grievance is the greatest that we shall achieve good. One grievance only makes another worse: we must have no sectarianism about grievances. Let each man devote his care to that particular evil which most arrests his attention – but let all together combine to mass the whole into one national grievance, and to make a calm, dignified, respectful, and resolute remonstrance.’ ”

Dublin Weekly Nation, Saturday 23rd July, 1853.

5 thoughts on “Scotland wasn’t Conquered, Ceded to, or Occupied by England


Leave a Reply