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Scotland in Union; First Century of the Union

[Scotland in Union Contents]

It took the new British parliament one year to begin nullifying the supposedly protected, by article XIX, Scottish institutions. The first to be abolished was Scotland’s Privy Council, abolished by an act, “for rendering the union of the two kingdoms more complete,” in 1708, by creating one Privy Council for Great Britain as a whole. 

Six years later a malt tax was introduced into Scotland, “in the direct teeth of an Article of Union expressly prohibiting it.”1 This led to Lord Seafield and Findlater taking it upon themselves to attempt to repeal the treaty, in 1713, which only failed by the majority of four votes. 

   “As regards stamp duties, window tax, coals, and malt, Scotland was exempted from the English taxation only during the currency of the existing English imposts, all of which expired at latest in 1710. Thereafter, no mercy was shown to the poorer country. The Land Tax remained as it had been, but all other taxes were imposed without regard to the comparative poverty of Scotland. It was invaded by an army of English excisemen – the ‘Gaugers’ – against whom the Scotch fisher-folk and illicit distillers waged ruthless war for more than a century. The imposition, after the war, of a duty on the inferior malt of Scotland, the same as that on the richer malt of England, was one of the four chief grievances which induced Lord Findlater and Seafield, supported by the Duke of Argyll – two of the Scottish statesmen who had done most to bring about the Union – to introduce a motion for its repeal six years afterwards, which was only defeated in the House of Lords by a majority of four. It was not only the severity of the measures, but the manners of the men who introduced them, that added gall to the bitterness of the cup which the Scottish members had to drink at Westminster. Most of them had supported the Union to gratify their own ambition or avarice, but the English statesmen by whom they had been suborned showed little consideration for their tools. ‘A tax upon linen cloth, the staple commodity of Scotland, having been proposed in the House of Commons, was resisted by Mr. Baillie of Jerviswood and other Scottish members, favourers of the Union, until Mr. Harley, who had been Secretary of State during the Treaty, stood up and cut short the debate, by saying: ‘Have we not bought the Scots, and did we not acquire a right to tax them? or for what other purpose did we give the equivalent?’ Lockhart of Carnwath arose in reply and said, he was glad to hear it plainly acknowledged that the Union had been a matter of bargain, and that Scotland had been bought and sold on that memorable occasion; but he was surprised to hear so great a manager in the traffic name the equivalent as the price, since, the revenue of Scotland itself being burdened in relief of that sum, no price had been in fact paid but what must ultimately be discharged by Scotland from her own funds.”2   

   “The idea appears to have occurred six years after the Union had taken place, when the Earl of Finlater moved in the United Parliament a bill for its repeal. His lordship, on the 1st of June, 1713, introduced his motion by a speech representing the grievances of the Scotch nation, and concluded by moving, ‘That leave be given to bring in a bill for dissolving the said Union, and securing the Protestant succession to the House of Hanover, the Queen’s prerogative in both kingdoms, and preserving the entire unity and good correspondence between the two kingdoms.’ After an interesting and animated debate, Lord Finlater’s motion was supported by 54 peers, and opposed by 54; there were 17 proxies for the negative, and only 13 for the affirmative; so that the motion was defeated by the small majority of four peers.”3   

There were a few reasons for dissolving this recently made treaty between Scotland and England and there was a dire warning from the Duke of Argyll; 

   “An attempt was made by some Scotch peers shortly after the Union to have their Union also repealed, and it was curious to compare the two attempts – that of the Earl of Findlater, and that of the hon. and learned member. That peer moved the repeal of the Union in 1713, on the ground that Scotland was more taxed than she ought to be. The hon. and learned member moved the repeal because Ireland had made a bad bargain, and the Earl of Findlater moved the repeal of the Union with Scotland because England had violated the bargain. What did the Duke of Argyll say on the occasion? There are his words:-  

   ‘If the Union is not dissolved no property would be left in the country, and Scotland would be the most miserable country on earth.’”4   

It was already seen that things were not going to go well for Scotland within this union which, again, was not the federal union the Scottish population had desired. They had wanted to retain the autonomy a federal union would have left them, instead of which, this incorporating union had ripped the power of self-governance from them, leaving them trusting that the centralised British parliament would act in their favour. It was becoming obvious to them that Scotland’s best interests were very far removed from the heart of this new administration of their country. 

In 1715 the first of the Jacobite Rebellions took place. Which had long-lasting and harsh consequences for Scots. 

   “At subsequent dates, many Scotchmen took up arms to restore the House of Stuart, much more from a belief that their restoration would be followed or accompanied by the restoration of the Scotch Parliament than from love of the fallen dynasty. The insurrections of 1715 and 1745 were, to a great extent, attempts to Repeal the Union by force of arms. Thus the Union had its share in producing the horrors of civil war.”5   

In 1716 the first of the retributive acts was passed, 

   “An Act for more effectual securing the Peace of the Highlands in Scotland.”6   

Which was then bolstered by an act in 1724; 

   “An Act for the more effectual Disarming the Highlands in that Part of Great Britain called Scotland; and for the better securing the Peace and Quiet of that Part of the Kingdom.”7   

As stated in the titles of these acts, Scotsmen were disarmed, with the exception of those of a higher than ordinary rank, of course. This meant that, in a period of our history where every man, in every country was able to bear arms and defend himself, Scots were at a sudden and palpable disadvantage. It was done out of fear by English statesmen of what they knew, from experience, Scots were capable of but this had the effect of also making Scotland defenceless against attack. 

In 1725 insult was added to injury when, 

   “In a letter to Lord Islay Walpole discloses what was the intention of the Government with respect to the management of Scottish affairs. ‘It may not be improper,’ he says, ‘to acquaint you that the scheme is to put an end to the office of Scotch Secretary,’ and accordingly, although it was revived for a time in the person of Lord Selkirk in the year 1731, the office finally disappeared in 1746 with the resignation of Lord Tweeddale along with the rest of the Granville Cabinet. When the Pelham Ministry was formed it appears at one time to have been intended to appoint Duke of Argyle as Secretary; but the Duke of Cumberland, who since his successful suppression of the rebellion on the field of Culloden was allowed an authority in Scottish affairs out of all proportion to his abilities, and for which the disturbed state of the Highlands was the only excuse, gave his voice against it.”8   

This second Jacobite rebellion in 1745 showed its effect in the Act of Proscription, followed swiftly, in 1747, by another, being 

   “An Act to amend and enforce so much of an Act made in the Nineteenth Year of His Majesty’s Reign, as relates to the more effectual disarming the Highlands in Scotland; and restraining the Use of the Highland Dress, and to Masters and Teachers of private Schools and Chaplains; and to explain a Clause in another Act made in the same Year, relating to Letters of Orders of Episcopal Ministers in Scotland; and to oblige Persons allowed to carry Arms, and the Directors of the Banks there, and certain Persons belonging to, or practising in the Courts of Session and Justiciary, to take the Oaths; and to repeal some Clauses in an Act made in the First Year of the Reign of His late Majesty King George the First, whereby certain Encouragements are given to Landlords and Tenants in Scotland, who should continue in their Duty and Loyalty to His said late Majesty; and for other Purposes therein mentioned.”9   

John F. Campbell summed up these acts thus; 

   “The Acts which relate to the Highland dress are – 1 George I., stat. 2, c. 54. 11 George I., c. 26. 19 George II. c. 39; Enforced 21 George I., c. 34; Explained, Amended, and Continued, 26 George II., c. 39. So far as relates to dress, repealed by 21 George III., c. 63.  

   The arms forbidden by the first of these Acts, and therefore commonly worn at that time, are ‘broadsword or target, poignard, whinger or durk, side pistol, gun, or other warlike weapon.’ 

   Section 17 of the 19th George II. provides for the dress. After the 1st of August 1747 it was unlawful for civilians, ‘on any pretence whatsoever, to wear or put on the clothes commonly called Highland Clothes, that is to say, the plaid, philibeg or little kilt, trowse, shoulder belts, or any part whatsoever of what peculiarly belongs to the Highland Garb; and that no Tartan or party-coloured Plaid, or Stuff, shall be used for Greatcoats or for upper Coats.’ The penalty was, for a first offence, six months’ imprisonment; and seven years’ transportation for a second offence.  

   As no provision was made for clothing those whom the legislature thus stripped, as the climate is severe and unfit for the cultivation of figs, and the people were poor; and as loyal districts were included, this might be called, ‘the Act for the un-civilization of the Highlands, and the profit of cloth workers.’”10   

So, Scots found themselves unprotected and without the allowance of a home militia for defence which meant that when François Thurot attacked Scotland’s coast, the people were left to suffer at his hands. 

   “This deficiency is the want of [a militia] establish[ed] 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.”11   

In 1782 the repeal of the former acts denying Scots a right to their weapons, Highland Garb, etc., in the form of, 

   “An Act to repeal so much of an Act, made in the Nineteenth Year of King George the Second, (for the more effectual disarming the Highlands in Scotland, and for the other Purposes therein mentioned), as restrains the Use of the Highland Dress.”12   

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

2  H. Gow, ‘Home Rule for Scotland Financial Grievances,’ ‘Scots Magazine,’ Sunday 1st March, 1891. 

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

4  ‘London Evening Standard, Thursday 24th April, 1834. 

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

6  George I., 1st Year, Chapter 54, 1715. 

7  George I., 11th Year, Chapter 26, 1724. 

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

9  George II., 21st Year, Chapter 26, 1747. 

10  J. F. Campbell, ‘Popular Tales of the West Highlands’ (1893), vol. 4, p.443. 

11  Scoto-Brittanus, ‘Caledonian Mercury,’ Monday 31st March, 1760. 

12  George III., 21st Year, Chapter 63, 1782.

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