Scotland in the Union; How Scotland Came to be United with England

[Scotland in Union Contents]

In 1290 after Edward I., after adding Wales to his dominions, decided he was also overlord of Scotland. This led to the Wars of Scottish Independence. 

   “We know that Edward I. set up such a monstrous claim, but that usurpation of authority got its fitting answer on the field of Bannockburn.”1   

By this time the Catholic church had begun the Crusades, which stated that any Christian nation was able to conscience-free enact war against any other non-Christian country and take possession of that place. Edward I. had obtained a Papal Bull allowing him to enter and take control of Scotland by whatever force necessary. To counter this Bruce sent the Declaration of Arbroath to the Pope declaring Scotland’s history as a Christian nation over which no ruler of England had a claim. 

Edward’s has been the prevailing sentiment of those in authority in England who struggle to see Scotland as anything more than a province that should be under their control.  

However, his grandson, Edward III., was less inclined this way, leading to the Treaty of Northampton in April, 1328, which states, 

   “… the King of England declared for himself and his heirs that the kingdom of Scotland shall remain for ever to the great prince, Lord Robert by the grace of God illustrious King of Scotland, and that Scotland shall be separated from the kingdom of England, and from all claims of subjection or vassalage.”2  

That should have been the end of it. 

   “The English in the 13th century demanded that Scotland should acknowledge their Kings to be Lords Paramount over the whole island; and in the 19th century the same spirit led these assuming Southerners to speak and write as if that demand had never been resisted, and as if they had swallowed us up when the Union was consummated as the boa constrictor swallows a rabbit.”3 

In 1603 there was the Union of the Crowns when James VI. ascended to the throne of England on the death of Elizabeth I. Regardless of this, Scotland maintained a separate legislature to England. 

   “When James VI fell heir to the English throne the first step was taken towards the union of the two hitherto hostile countries. All in the island fondly hoped that the long struggle, beginning with Edward I, had now reached a close, as the annexation of Scotland, which had been so coveteously desired by the English for centuries, was now attained, and by a process alike honourable to Scotland and beneficial to England.”4   

In the immediate run-up to the signing of the Union there was a lot of back and forth and antagonism between Scotland and England. In 1688, when James VII. was unthroned due to his post-Reformation Catholic tendencies. William of Orange and James’ daughter Mary were chosen as his successors being his nearest Protestant relations. 

In 1692 there was the Massacre at Glencoe. 

   “The failure of the Darien expedition greatly embittered the minds of the Scots against the English, and this unfortunate state of feeling was intensified by the cruel and unjustifiable massacre of Glencoe – a barbarous act that will leave an indelible stain upon the memory of William; for, in spite of his apologists, there can be no doubt in the mind of any reasonable man that he not only gave orders for the military execution, but approved of it.”5   

The Darien Scheme, in 1698, a Scottish attempt at trade expansion, was seen as detrimental, competition, and a threat to English trade. With specific regard to the Darien attempt, in a bid to maintain their trading monopoly varying English parties took it upon themselves to persuade and convince those English and Dutch investors in the attempt to back out. 

Chambers states the reason for the failure of the Darien scheme as being,  

   “English mercantile jealousy, and the king’s indifference to Scottish interests,”6  

yet fails to explain this.  

   “There was no decline in Scottish shipping activity until 1681, when at the privy council there was ominous talk of decaying trade. This was to become almost a routine item of business at the council board, though not altogether justified. On the whole, Scottish merchants were making a living and were quite remote from any prospect of a great crash… They complained, of course, and especially about the navigation act, BUT THEIR MAIN GRIEVANCE AGAINST IT WAS THAT IN ENGLISH LAW SCOTLAND WAS MADE A FOREIGN COUNTRY FOR THE PURPOSES OF TRADE. Official exclusion from the plantation trade was legally rather than commercially resented, being seen as a gratuitous slight to the status of Scotsmen… Any Scotsman with the capacity to trade with the English colonies continued to do so, the navigation act notwithstanding, greatly to the distraction of the English customs service, whose resources were strained in an attempt to stop this illegal trade.”7  

So not only were we Scots deemed foreign, to inhibit our trading capabilities, but we were tagged so regardless of it being detrimental to their own English workforce. 

   “[Darien] failed miserably, solely through the jealous opposition of the English, who were determined that the Scotch should have no lot or part with them, either in founding new settlements or in engaging in foreign commerce. Ultimately our richer and more powerful neighbour, possessing the ear of the Government in London, succeeded in their opposition, and the ruin of the Darien scheme, and practically, also, the ruin of the whole country, was complete. It was in these circumstances that, at the beginning of the century, the question of Union came to be discussed, the English scheming to get rid of their northern neighbour with its troublesome Parliament, and the Scotch prepared to sacrifice something of their independence in order to extend their trade, but never contemplating anything beyond a federal union.”8  

In 1701 The English parliament enacted the Act of Settlement to ensured the line of succession would remain Protestant. They decided on Sophia of Hanover as successor to Anne without any consultation with the Scots. 

John Spottiswoode, gave a speech in 1702 to the freeholders of Berwickshire; 

   “‘We cannot,’ he says, ‘fancy a more deplorable state than ours has been since King James the Sixth came to the throne of England. Our nation has been despised, our interests neglected both at home and abroad – our princes and statesmen under the influence of the English, who make us partake with them of the calamities of war, but we enjoy none of the conquests, and when peace is made we are not so much as named; so that the benefit of the treaties and leagues of commerce which we had before the year 1603 are lost, and we are more enthralled by the English than if we were conquered by them.’”9  

The Scottish parliament, in retaliation to the previous English Act of Settlement, enacted the Act of Security in 1704. This was to ensure that any heirs should be descendants of the Scottish throne. An English successor would only be chosen should there be no other valid choice. The English parliament at this time were beginning to fear the threat of the Scots. Lord Haversham stated; 

   “There are two matters of all troubles, much discontent and great poverty; and whoever will now look into Scotland will find them both in that kingdom. It is certain the nobility and gentry of Scotland are as learned and as brave as any nation can boast of; and these are generally discontented. And as to the common people, they are very numerous, and very stout, but very poor. And who is the man that can answer what such a multitude, so armed, so disciplined, with such leaders may do – especially since opportunities do so much alter men from themselves!”10  

On the 29th of November, 1704, saw the enactment of the English parliament’s Alien Act in response to the Scottish Act of Security. This meant Scots in England were to be treated as foreign nationals, they were also unlikely to inherit any property they had a right to on the decease of English relatives. Scottish produce was banned from importation and no English exports were to cross the border into Scotland, specifically of arms, horses, and any other potentially useful martial supplies. The English agreed to only suspend this act should the Scots enter into a negotiation with the Act of Union as the result. Scots agreed to only enter into negotiations on repeal of this act. 

Queen Anne was petition by the English parliament that fortifications should be reinforced and, if necessary, created at Newcastle, Tyne, Hull, and Carlisle. But the general feeling was that the only protection that might be found lay in a union of the two countries. To this end, on the 20th of December, 1704, a bill for the union of both kingdoms was read by the lords and was sent to the House of Commons. On the 1st of February, 1705, a bill was passed by the Commons, which was agreed to when sent to the House of Lords without discussion. 

   “The restrictive clauses of this bill, which seemed to savour of intimidation, offended the national pride of the Scots, and tended to alienate the minds of many from the proposed union.”11  

Talks between the parliaments of the two countries commenced in earnest. Articles were drawn up but in 1706; 

   “A protest was drawn up, by way of amendment to Article XXII., assigning Scotland her very inadequate proportion of representatives in the United Parliament. It declared that ‘the members of a legislature are mere temporary administrators of their trust, and not the owners or masters of a people. They are not entitled to bargain away the nation they represent, or make it cease to exist. Therefore, the minority entertaining these sentiments would now secede from the others, protesting against what it was designed to do, and in their secession would consider themselves the centre of a new Scottish Parliament.”12  

Scotland found herself far too under-represented by Article XXII. This meant that any decision made, even those pertaining solely to Scotland, in the new British parliament would rest on the English members. Their having the vast majority vote on every debate. 

   “In 1706, Scotland had a population of two millions, while that of England was really not six millions, and therefore of the 513 members which sat in the English House of Commons, we should have been allowed one-third, or about 170, instead of which it was proposed to give us only 30, a number increased at a later stage of the negotiations to 45. As regards the House of Lords, with its 500 English Peers, Scotland was to be allowed to send only 16. The hollowness of the argument that the treaty could not be legally violated was soon proved by events.”13  

On the 16th of January, 1707, at Edinburgh, the Treaty of Union between Scotland and England was formally ratified. On its accomplishment Lord Seafield is quoted as having said, 

   “There’s an end o’ an auld sang.”14 

There was no desire in Scotland for this incorporating union. What had been agreed to by the population of Scotland was that of a federal union. Scotland wasn’t in debt, it had no loyalty to England or the English parliament, and her people were rightly proud of their country’s independence and that she had remained unconquered despite centuries of continued assaults from her southern neighbour. In fact as regards debt, the treaty states, in Article XV., the public debts of Scotland would be paid off by the British parliament as they were well aware the dues exacted from Scotland thereafter would more than recompense that expenditure, but also because as part of the deal Scotland was to take on a share in the repayment of England’s debt, which at the time amounted to about £20 million (approx. £4,911,511,00615 by today’s calculations). Regardless of this, the treaty entered into was that of two equal entities, with Scotland’s rights, laws and institutions retained to her. 

   “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.”16  

Instead of the treaty and, therefore, her rights, being respected by the newly formed British Parliament, however, almost immediately this institution and those there sought almost immediately to show Scotland who was now in charge. 

   ‘The immediate and palpable loss which she (Scotland) sustained by the removal of her parliaments was compensated by no perceptible advantage; on the contrary, many imposts were suddenly increased, and the inroad of a staff of English Revenue officers, wedded to forms and usages foreign to their habits, naturally became odious to her people. Nor was the abolition of her Privy Council, the introduction of an appeal from the Court of Session to the House of Peers, or the extension to the ‘ancient kingdom’ of English treason-laws and commissions of the peace, in technical language unintelligible beyond the Tweed, looked on otherwise than as a systematic abolition of all her most cherished juridical institutions… From the great expense attending their attendance, many of her representatives were absentees from the United Legislature, or, when present, took little part in proceedings conducted under forms new to them and little understood… Again, the equalisation of trading privileges entirely failed to bring that expansion of commercial activity which had been long and ardently anticipated. The old burghs became more stagnant than ever, and though individual Scotchmen made their way to England and the colonies, where by prudence and persevering sagacity, they generally succeeded to a remarkable degree, such instances only increased the jealousy and added pungency to the sneers of their Anglo-Saxon competitors. Pre-existing discontents were thus to some extent sharpened by disappointment, and the minds of the more impressionable were prepared for those Jacobite intrigues which it had been a main object of the Union finally to defeat.  

‘There was, however, a more enduring evil attending the arrangement.’ (The reviewer here quotes from Burton’s ‘History of Scotland.’) “Many of the calamities following on the Union had much encouragement, if they did not spring, soon that haughty English nature which would not condescend to sympathise in, or even know, the peculiarities of their new fellow-countrymen… The pervading historical character of the events immediately following the Union, is, that English statesmen, had they desired to alienate Scotland, and create a premature revulsion against the Union, could not have pursued a course better adapted to such an end. The position of the countries demanded a delicate and cautious policy. Scotland had to go through the immediate perceptible evils of a departed nationality, a decaying retail trade, and increased taxation; the countervailing benefits from extended enterprise lay in the future. A paternal Government would, on such an occasion, have carefully avoided everything that irritated national pride or prejudices, and seemed, however slightly, to sacrifice the interests or independence of the one country to the other… But in almost every one of the changes just enumerated, the offensive act was offensively done, and the country was ever reminded that she was in the hands of ungenial and uninterested, if not hostile strangers.” ’ – (Edin. Review, Oct. 1854; Article, Burton’s Hist. of Scotland from 1689 to 1748.)”17  

The reason for this acquiescence to the wrongs being done to Scots and their country was due to the bad actors working on her behalf. 

   “Perhaps there was no period in the history of Scotland when there flourished so many corrupt statesmen as in the early years of the eighteenth century, but there are some names which stand out with greater infamy than others. Among these a foremost place must be given to John Dalrymple, Earl of Stair, the contriver and executor of the massacre of Glencoe. As a Secretary of State in the last Scottish Parliament he used his eminence, influence, and patronage to destroy the liberties of his country. The Duke of Queensberry held a bad place in that inglorious work, while Lord Chancellor Seafield brutally jested over the extinction of our native Parliament, and a crowd of sycophants gladly followed in the footsteps of these daring spirits.”18 

1  C. Waddie, Dundee Courier, Friday 8th November, 1889. 

2  A. Whamond, ‘A History of Scotland: From the Earliest Times to the Union of the Crowns’ (1881), p.29. 

3  ‘Glasgow Herald,’ Monday 8th February, 1869. 

4  C. Waddie, How Scotland Lost Her Parliament’ (1891), p.2. 

5  C. Waddie, How Scotland Lost Her Parliament’ (1891), p.5. 

6  R. Chambers, ‘Domestic Annals of Scotland’ (1885), p.355. 

7  P W J Riley, ‘The Union of England and Scotland: A Study in Anglo-Scottish Politics of the Eighteenth Century’ (1979), pp.197-198. 

8  ‘Aberdeen Juridical Society: Address by Sheriff Guthrie Smith,’ ‘Aberdeen Free Press,’ Saturday 11th April, 1885. 

9  ‘Aberdeen Juridical Society: Address by Sheriff Guthrie Smith,’ ‘Aberdeen Free Press,’ Saturday 11th April, 1885. 

10  N. E. R., ‘The Flying Squadron,’ ‘Newcastle Chronicle,’ Saturday 28th August, 1886.  

11  N. E. R., ‘The Flying Squadron,’ ‘Newcastle Chronicle,’ Saturday 28th August, 1886. 

12  J. Morrison Davidson, ‘Home Rule for Scotland,’ ‘Reynold’s Newspaper, Sunday 5th August, 1888. 

13  ‘Aberdeen Juridical Society: Address by Sheriff Guthrie Smith,’ ‘Aberdeen Free Press,’ Saturday 11th April, 1885. 

14  J. Morrison Davidson, ‘Home Rule for Scotland,’ ‘Reynold’s Newspaper, Sunday 5th August, 1888. 

15  Figure courtesy of the Bank of England’s inflation calculator. 

16  ‘Scottish Independence; Declaration of Rights,’ Dublin Weekly Nation, Saturday 23rd July, 1853. 

17  W. J. O’Neill Daunt, ‘Home Rule – The Scotch Union – Letter from Mr. Daunt,’ Dublin Weekly Nation, Saturday 25th November, 1871. 

18  C. Waddie, How Scotland Lost Her Parliament’ (1891), p.29.

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