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The Awakening of Scotland
Chapter I. Scotland at Westminster, 1747 - 1775


We have seen that the Scottish representatives at Westminster, despite some flashes of independence when the interests of their own country were at stake, had become notorious for their subservience to the Court; and the only political struggle throughout the eighteenth century in which they signally belied their character was that which terminated in the fall of Walpole. Hitherto only a few prominent individuals had ventured to indulge in opposition. The Whig statesmen, who carried their rivalry from the Scottish into the British Parliament, belonged to one or other of two sections— the Old or Revolution Whigs, who had formed the Court party in King William’s reign, and the New Party or Squadrone, who had opposed on national grounds the Ministers of both William and Anne, but eventually had concurred in the Union. When the Government formed by George I. at his accession was broken up in 1717, the Old Whig leaders favoured Townshend and Walpole, whilst their rivals inclined to Sunderland and Carteret; and, when Walpole in 1721 became Premier on the disgrace of Sunderland, several Squadrone nobles—the Dukes of Roxburgh and Montrose, the Earls of Marchmont and Stair—set themselves to thwart his measures, such as the Malt Tax and the Excise Bill, and, sooner or later, were deprived of their posts. At the general election of 1734 Walpole succeeded in preventing the return of these malcontents as representative peers; but the loss of Marchmont to the Opposition was more than made good by his twin sons, both of whom entered the House of Commons in this year—Lord Polwarth as member for Berwick-on-Tweed, and Alexander Hume Campbell as member for Berwickshire.

Amongst the impassioned orators, more violent than wise, who hurled their fiery darts at a Government which had been cradled in corruption and was wedded to dishonourable peace, Lord Polwarth won a reputation hardly, if at all, inferior to that of Pitt; and, when in 1740 he succeeded to the peerage of his family without obtaining a seat in the Lords, he left behind him a brother who, in the opinion of Horace Walpole, the Premier’s youngest son, was “as troublesome, as violent, and almost as able.”  Hume Campbell had, however, few followers amongst his countrymen in the House; for, so long as Lord Islay continued to control the Scottish elections as he had done since 1725, the equilibrium of Ministers was not likely to be endangered by any considerable shifting of the “dead Court weight.” But the agent, who had served them so effectively, proved unequal to his task in 1741. Whether “the viceroy” was over-matched by his numerous enemies and out-generalled by his brother, the Duke of Argyll, who had become a violent opponent of Walpole, or whether, as some suspected, he treacherously relaxed his grasp of the corporations, the Government on this occasion lost the greater part of their Scottish phalanx; and meanwhile another corps, almost equally numerous and submissive, had been largely diverted to the Opposition as the resuit of Lord Falmouth’s attack on the Cornish boroughs. “Cornwall,” wrote a zealous wire-puller to Argyll, “ gave the first foundation for any reasonable hopes, and Scotland has brought the work to such a degree of perfection that it would be as criminal to despair of success as it would before have been presumptuous to have expected it.” In the new Parliament Walpole fought hard to avert defeat; but the Westminster election was decided against him by a majority of four, and in the case of a double return for Berwickshire, Hume Campbell found so many supporters that his seat was secured without a division. Every available member who could use his own or other legs wras present when the House divided on the motion for an inquiry into the conduct of the war with Spain, except three Ministerialists, who lay prostrate in an adjoining chamber and were adroitly locked out. “It was a most shocking sight,” wrote Horace Walpole, “to see the sick and dead brought in on both sides”; and conspicuous amongst the Opposition "incurables" was the member for Cromarty, Sir William Gordon, a London banker, who was so swathed in bandages that he looked like a corpse, or, at all events, “like Lazarus at his resurrection.” The motion was rejected by three votes; but Walpole was again defeated on an election petition, and in February, 1742, he resigned.

The Government was not very deeply affected by the storm of abuse to which its chief had succumbed. With the concurrence of Pulteney, leader of the Opposition, who claimed a peerage and a seat in the Cabinet, but refused himself to take office, Lord Wilmington, formerly President of the Council, was placed at the head of the Treasury; and under this respectable cypher the enemies of Walpole consented to unite with his former colleagues. The New Scottish Whigs had cause for congratulation in the choice of their old friend Carteret as Secretary of State; the Marquis of Tweeddale, their hereditary chief, was appointed, by way of curtailing the power of Islay, to the Secretaryship for Scotland, which was then in abeyance and had been filled for only eight years (17311739) since the dismissal of Roxburgh in 1725; and several dependents of the Prince of Wales, round whom at Leicester House had centred the opposition to his father’s Minister, were admitted to subordinate posts.

On the death of Wilmington in 1743, Pulteney solicited the Premiership which he had unwisely declined in the previous year; but at the instance of Walpole, whose influence was by no means extinct, the position was assigned to his own close adherent, more capable than distinguished, Henry Pelham.  Walpole’s real successor in the confidence of George II. was, however, neither Wilmington nor Pelham, but Lord Carteret, under whose guidance the Cabinet was induced to provide forces for defending the King’s German dominions; and in 1744 “the Hanover-troop Minister,” who, in the words of Pitt, was subordinating a great and powerful kingdom to “a despicable electorate,” had become so potent at Court and so unpopular in the country that Pelham, timid as he was, insisted on his dismissal. The so-called "broad bottom administration" was then formed, comprising all sections of the Whigs and some Tories, which lasted till the death of Pelham in 1754, and was continued for two years longer under his singularly incompetent brother, the Duke of Newcastle. Stronger hands were needed to conduct the war, disastrously begun, which was to terminate in the British conquest of Canada, the West Indies and Bengal; but, as Newcastle headed the Whig nobles, had been Secretary of State for over thirty years, and had devoted himself with extraordinary zest to the management of boroughs and official patronage, he possessed immense influence in the House of Commons. Pitt attempted, but failed, to maintain a Government, under the Duke of Devonshire, without this corrupt aid; and in 1757 he formed the ever-memorable Ministry, of which Newcastle as First Lord of the Treasury was the nominal head.

These Cabinet changes were of more interest to Scottish office-seekers than to their countrymen at large. Scottish party distinctions, which had lost much of their significance at the Union, were now almost obliterated through the personal ascendency of one great patron; and the Squadrone, scarce venturing to avow itself a party lest it should be denounced as a faction, had dwindled into a knot of querulous patriots, insanely jealous of Islay, who since the death of his brother in 1743 had been Duke of Argyll. Marchmont seems to have been the most active member of this group, and much of his energy was expended in playing the part of a lean and hungry Cassius to “the sole Minister ” who bestrode like a Colossus the narrow Scottish world. Argyll was a man of finely cultivated tastes, literary and scientific, whose happiest hours were spent in his noble library, in his woods and gardens stocked with foreign trees and plants, and amongst mechanical inventions which he called his “gimcracks in mathematics"; but, though careless of money, a humorist and a good talker, he had none of the personal attractions—the fine figure, the musical voice, the unstudied eloquence, the open and impetuous temper—which had characterised the late Duke. Horace Walpole describes him as “slovenly in his person, mysterious, not to say with an air of guilt in his deportment"; he was always sapping and mining where his brother had shone as a dashing light horseman; and, though powerful, he was anything but a favourite, at Court. King George “had a most mortal hatred to him, worse than to any man in his dominions"; Newcastle disliked him; Chesterfield was said metaphorically to be “every day knocking at the Duke’s head"; and his one sure friend in the Ministry was the Premier, Pelham. His influence had undergone an eclipse, more apparent than real, when Tweeddale was appointed to the Scottish Secretaryship; but Tweeddale and his office alike disappeared during the rebellion of 1745; and Argyll gained so many new allies in Scotland by exerting his influence to shield the vanquished rebels that at the elections of 1747 he re-established his supremacy on a basis which was never again shaken. This stroke of policy gave a fresh opening to the Squadrone, who had always been more zealous Hanoverians than the Old Whigs. Marchmont could see nothing that was not wholly admirable in the severities practised by the Duke of Cumberland; and, in conversation with the King, he was lamenting that the Highlanders did not realise their “infinite obligations” to the man who had harried them with fire and sword, when George cut him short with the remark that “his son did not go there to please them; they naturally would be angry at him.” There was, however, some reason to suspect that the Caesar of the north was pandering to Jacobitism in his insatiable lust of power; and Cumberland quite agreed with Marchmont that a man was sure of preferment in Scotland, “whether he was the King’s friend or not, if he would go to hell for the Duke of Argyll.”

Preferment could, after all, be obtained on less onerous terms. Marchmont in 1747 was made a Lord of Police, but he continued to despair of his country till in 1750 he was permitted to enter Parliament as a representative peer. His brother, if no slower in his conversion, had to wait longer for his reward. Hume Campbell had been Attorney-General to the Prince of Wales till the rebellion of 1745, when he offended both the Prince and the King by opposing the issue of commissions to raise volunteer troops. He somewhat retrieved this step by voting for the Heritable Jurisdictions Bill, and soon after Marchmont had accepted office he consented ‘ ‘ to give over his persecution of Mr. Pelham,” whom he hated as the friend of Argyll, and devoted himself mainly to his practice at the English Bar. Early in 1756 he was appointed Lord Clerk Register of Scotland; and it was doubtless in anticipation of this lucrative prize that his voice had been raised a few weeks earlier to vindicate the treaties under which Hanover was again to be defended at British expense. He who had once called Walpole "a tympany of corruption" was now moved to indignation by “the eternal invectives,” and said it would be hard “if that House might not resent unjust accusations of our superiors.” This speech was aimed at Pitt, and the unlucky word “superiors,” the echo of an extinct feudal legislature, drew from that high-spirited statesman the most bitter and venomous of all his retorts. Pitt recalled how he and his former friend had once "trod the same paths of invectives together,” exulting in the freedom of parliamentary debate, and he recalled also how in the reign of James I. “a servile lawyer” had craved the punishment of a fellow member who had applied an insulting epithet to the Duke of Buckingham. “But,” he continued, turning to Hume Campbell with a gesture of anger and contempt, “I will not dress up this image under a third person; I apply it to him; his is the slavish doctrine; he is the slave; and the shame of this doctrine will stick to him as long as his gown sticks to his back.” Whether or not he was “annihilated in the eyes of the world and in his own by Mr. Pitt’s philippic,” Hume Campbell took little further partin politics. He died in 1760. Marchmont was appointed Keeper of the Scottish Great Seal in 1764, and retained his seat in the Lords till 1784.

The official career of these twin brothers was confined to Scotland; and, however distinguished as orators, neither of them attained to the position in British politics which was held by James Oswald of Dunnikier. More forcible than eloquent, and never sacrificing solidity to declamation, Oswald displayed such vigour and readiness of argument that he had no superior as a master of debate—at all events, in the opinion of Horace Walpole, who says that he “overflowed with a torrent of sense and logic.”  A favourite in London society, he was greatly esteemed by his countrymen, especially by those of them who were men of letters, and he was accounted—not a very high distinction—“one of the most meritorious and unblemished of our Scottish members.” Entering the Commons as member for the Kirkcaldy burghs at the general election which preceded the fall of Walpole, he promised to support that Minister, but voted against him; and the friend who had enlisted him for the Government, and now came to reproach him with his breach of faith, is said to have been greeted thus : “You had like to have led me into a fine error. Did you not tell me that Sir Robert would have the majority?”3 At the Carteret crisis of 1744 Oswald’s capacity for business and his devotion to Argyll procured him a seat at the Navy Board, which he retained till its occupant, three years later, was excluded from Parliament. "It has ever been my opinion and still is,” he wrote on this occasion to a friend, "that places ought to be the last part of every negotiation”; but this fine sentiment, which would have done credit to Joseph Surface, was imperilled in practice by an office and a place of residence which led him to cultivate an intimacy he had formed with Bubb Doding-ton, that fop, wit, scholar, and consummate rogue, who was always "ready to concur if he was properly provided for,” and who always insisted on “adjusting places first.”4 Dodington in 1744 had been appointed Treasurer of the Navy; but in 1749, won over by the Prince of Wales, who offered him a new sinecure at Leicester House and promised on his accession to make him a peer and Secretary of State, he resigned this post, thus deserting Pelham as he had twice deserted Walpole. Influenced by this example, or perhaps merely because he was out of office, Oswald soon waxed mutinous, and finally attacked the naval administration with such vigour that Pelham in February, 1751, offered to make him Comptroller of the Navy, with full power to reform its abuses. Oswald told Dodington that he would much rather attach himself to the Prince, who was more likely to promote a reformation than the present King, but that, as he held no Court appointment, “he must be contented to do his best in the station that was offered him.” This hint sufficed, and on February 25 it was arranged that the zealous reformer should enter the Prince’s household on that day next month as Clerk of the Green Cloth. Cn March 20 the Prince died. Dodington, having resigned his place in the Government, had to do without it till Pelham’s death. Oswald forfeited the promised preferment, but before the end of the year was appointed a Commissioner of Trade. Too cautious to join as a Lord of the Treasury the short-lived administration of Devonshire and Pitt, he consented to serve in that capacity after Pitt had united with Newcastle.

The most distinguished Scotsman in Parliament during the second half of George II.’s reign and the first half of George III.’s was William Murray, a younger son of Viscount Stormont, who in 1756 became Chief Justice of the King’s Bench and Lord Mansfield. Unfortunately for the stigma of disloyalty which still clung to the Scottish nation, Murray belonged to a Jacobite family, and one of his brothers had been the Pretender’s Minister. He contended for the palm of eloquence with Pitt and Henry Fox; but, as he represented an English constituency and moved in the highest circle of British politics, his career need not be sketched here. Another Scotsman of note who, as the eldest son of a Scottish peer, was restricted in those days to an English seat, was Lord Dupplin, who in 1758 succeeded to the Earldom of Kinnoul. Dupplin soon distinguished himself as a financier, was employed by Newcastle as his parliamentary manager or “agent of business,” and, after refusing the Chancellorship of the Exchequer, consented to take office as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the Newcastle-Pitt Ministry.

Lord Marchmont in 1745 had remarked to a friend “what a blow would be given to our country, should the opinion of the general disaffection there prevail, however groundless”; and this opinion, fostered by the Duke of Cumberland, was prevalent enough to excite some opposition to a Government which treated Scottish Jacobitism, and treated it very mildly, as a local, not a national disease. There were some who maintained that if every revolt was to bring as much English money into Scotland as had been spent in buying up the heritable jurisdictions and in making good the losses of Glasgow, it would be the interest of that country “ to have frequent rebellions”; and the grant to Glasgow, though only £10,000, was cited as an instance of partiality as well as of needless expense, since no other town, Scottish or English, had obtained such relief. Still louder complaints were made when in 1752 an Act was passed to annex to the Crown nearly one half of the forfeited estates, and to free them from encumbrances at an estimated cost of £100,000. If these estates, in terms of a statute which must shortly come into force, had been offered for sale, a person commissioned by the owner, who was invariably in collusion with the creditors, would have been able to outbid any independent buyer; and the Act was designed to extinguish the spirit of clanship, not merely by dispossessing the chiefs, but by making the sovereign a great Highand proprietor, whose income as such was to be expended solely in educating and civilising his tenants. It was suspected, however, by the enemies of Argyll that he had devised this scheme with a view to ingratiating himself still further with the Jacobites as manager of their estates. The Duke of Bedford, attacking the project in the Lords as more conducive to jobbery than any public undertaking he had ever heard of, mentioned several persons implicated in the rebellion who had been provided for or promoted in the Excise; and Cumberland, who had indirectly supplied him with these facts, is said to have shown the King a list of sixty Jacobites who had recently obtained preferment.

By the Act of 1747, which abolished the hereditary sheriffs and replaced their delegates by officials responsible to the Crown, it was provided that these sheriffs-depute, as they were called, who were to enter on their duties on March 25, 1748, should hold office “with such continuance as his Majesty shall think fit” for a term of seven years, and thereafter should be appointed for life. The danger of disaffection, in which this clause originated, had apparently lost none of its terrors when the term of probation was about to expire; for in 1755, to the satisfaction of some Scottish members and the chagrin of others, one of whom asserted that there were more Jacobites in Middlesex than in the Highlands, it was enacted that the sheriffs should continue on their present footing for a further period, not of seven, but of fifteen, years. This question raised sufficiently broad issues to bring all the great orators into the field, and the plea of public security prevailed with difficulty over the constitutional maxim, affirmed at the Revolution, that judges ought to be independent of the Crown. Pitt spoke with more, eloquence than decision, extolling the latter principle, but not unwilling to admit the former; and his speeches afforded little indication of the policy he was to adopt two years later, when as Secretary of State under the Duke of Devonshire he resumed the work, which the rebellion had interrupted, of raising Highland troops, and, on the recommendation of Argyll, assigned the command of one of two regiments to the Master of Lovat.

When these Highlanders were embodied for service in America, the Government had just sent back a force of Hessians and Hanoverians which, under threat of a French invasion, had been hired to fight our battles at home; and this discreditable expedient, recalling the employment of foreign mercenaries for the same purpose in 1746, had given rise to a very general demand that the conscription for home defence, which the regular army, small as it was, had superseded, should be revived. A Militia Bill, introduced by Colonel George Townshend and warmly supported by Pitt, passed the Commons in 1756; but, being distasteful to the King and the Duke of Cumberland, it was thrown out in the Lords, where Lord Hardwicke opposed it as a democratic innovation, and as inimical to those orderly and industrious habits, in order to promote which the clans had been disarmed. When Pitt came into power the proposal was hopefully renewed; but Pitt had temporarily withdrawn from office with the Duke of Devonshire when in 1757 it became law.

Colonel Townshend, in bringing forward his scheme for the first time, is said to have expressed the hope that some member with the requisite legal knowledge would introduce a similar measure for Scotland. Even the Colonel’s success, however, in the following year did not induce anybody to attempt such a task. It may have been a very scandalous thing that Scotsmen should be denied the use of arms whilst their fellow-subjects in England, though much better protected by regular troops, were providing their own defence; but the Scottish people submitted with much indifference to “the greatest indignity that ever was put upon any nation”; and it was not till the beginning of 1760, after a French squadron had threatened the Clyde, that a Bill to extend the militia was proposed. No meetings of freeholders were held till March, and it was remarked that the constituencies allowed two months to elapse without sending instructions to their members. By this time the English militia scheme had disappointed its promoters, for, though highly popular in prospect, it had never been adopted in several counties, and, where the ballot was enforced, had caused serious riots. It is said that only two Scottish members opposed the Bill at its second reading on April 15, but one of these, and a very determined opponent, was the Lord Advocate, Bobert Dundas; Argyll was believed to be lukewarm; and the Bill was thrown out by 194 votes to 84. Detriment to rising manufactures was the principal argument put forward in opposition; but Dundas belonged to the Squadrone, having served as Solicitor-General under Tweeddale; and the junto of Tories and play-going Moderates,  who were the principal advocates of a Scottish militia, attributed their defeat to the dread of Jacobitism entertained and propagated by this strait-laced Churchman and zealous Whig.

The English Act was to hold good for only five years, and in 1762, when it had almost expired and was likely to be amended and renewed, efforts were made to stir up a fresh agitation in Scotland. Public opinion, no longer apathetic, had in many quarters become hostile. Several counties, including those of Ayr, Fife and Perth, declared in favour of a militia; but Midlothian, West Lothian and Stirlingshire, the towns of Edinburgh, Stirling and Dundee declared against it; and the farmers were all on this side on account of the scarcity of labour. Several writers in the press drew a pathetic picture of Scotland disarmed, “possessed by men defenceless, spiritless, more dejected than women”; but their extravagance provoked retorts in which they were contemptuously described as “our militia patriots,” and as “militia-mad.” 

The Militia Bill was rejected about six months before the death, on October 25, 1760, of George II.; and, as the Scottish Jacobites evinced their reconciliation to the House of Hanover by coming forward to support this measure, it conducts us by a natural transition into the politics of the new reign.

George III., the eldest son of that Frederick, Prince of Wales, whose death in 1751 had upset the plans of Dodington and Oswald, was twenty-two years of age when he became King. The widowed Princess, jealous even of his guardians and preceptors, had been careful to keep him unspotted from the world; but she and her confidant, Lord Bute, had been less concerned to educate the cloistered youth, whose natural obstinacy and intolerance were aggravated by his seclusion, than to instil into him their own abhorrence of the "caristocratical faction who kept his grandfather in chains and were determined to make a mere pageant of the throne." Guided by the two persons who had taught him this lesson, George proceeded to put it into practice. The Whigs, in default of less acceptable politicians, might still have their share of office, but it was to be a share only, and they were no longer to be recognised as a political corps, armed in their own defence with the Crown patronage, and led by an accredited chief. In other words, party government, with its attendant corruption, was to be discontinued; the Kin^vvas to rule as well as-to reign; and his Ministers, with no collective responsibility, were to be his agents in administration and his advisers in council. As George was a native prince who gloried “in the name of Britain," and, as the system he proposed to overthrow had originated at a time when the sovereign was a German elector who could not even speak English, it was quite natural that such a design should be formed; and the moment was favourable; for the Whigs, under the weak leadership of the Pelhams, had fallen into disunion; Pitt, their one man of genius, detested the monopoly which limited his choice of colleagues; and the Tories, so long proscribed as Jacobites, were now eager to transfer their adulation of royalty from a Catholic and foreign Pretender to a Protestant and homebred King. Nevertheless, the Whig position proved so strong, intrenched as it was within so many ramparts of territorial and borough influence, that George was compelled to adopt against its authors the very system which he so strongly condemned. Newcastle had made the usual preparations to ensure his success at the general election of 1761; but he encountered an unexpected antagonist in Bute, who wrested from him the Crown patronage and enlisted wealthy men, without family or local influence, as recruits for the Court against the Ministry; corruption was more rampant than ever; and thus the sovereign, who was to have annihilated party and its abuses, became a party leader and as much of a jobber and borough-monger as Newcastle himself.

“The power of the Crown,” wrote Burke in 1770, “almost dead and rotten as Prerogative, has grown up anew, with much more strength and far less odium, under the name of Influence.” The process which was in operation during these ten years demands our attention only in so far as it was facilitated or retarded by Scottish politicians; but, in order to provide a framework for the narrative, its progress must be briefly summarised. George III., eager to clear the way for his new scheme of administration, was little worse disposed to the Whigs than to their “bloody and expensive war.” Newcastle and Pitt being rivals rather than colleagues, Bute succeeded before long in getting rid of both, and on May 29, 1762, heJaecame head of the Government which he had dominated since the King’s accession. Within a few months a draft treaty was arranged with France—not so good that it might not easily have been better; stupendous bribery and intimidation were employed to carry the peace and a still more unpopular cider tax through Parliament; and Bute, on emerging, exhausted, disillusioned and detested from the deepest and dirtiest pits of corruption,” retired from office in April, 1763, on the plea of ill-health. He was succeeded by his adherent, George Grenville, who presided over a mixed Government composed mainly of detached Whigs. This was the Ministry which carried the American Stamp Act and prosecuted Wilkes for libel; but Grenville, zealously as he promoted these high-handed measures, had no idea of being a mere lieutenant of “King’s friends”; and King George, after vainly endeavouring to come to terms with Pitt, surrendered at discretion in 1765 to the group of great nobles who had “kept his grandfather in chains.” These Janissaries were now led by the Marquis of Rockingham,6 but Newcastle returned to power, or at all events to jobbery, as Lord Privy Seal. The Rockingham Ministry repealed the Stamp Act and the cider tax; but they were thwarted at every turn by "an Opposition of new and singular character, an Opposition of placemen and pensioners”; and in little more than a year the royal captive regained his freedom, when Pitt, the avowed foe of party, consented at last to form an administration, so motley and heterogeneous that it comprised almost as many sections as members, and was compared to “a piece of diversified mosaic.” The architect of this Government was the only man strong enough to prevent it being manipulated by the King; and Pitt, now Earl of Chatham, was soon incapacitated by illness. His colleagues reversed his policy by renewing the quarrel with Wilkes and with the colonies; his representative and successor, the Duke of Grafton, resigned in disgust in 1770; and in the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord North, a chief was found who disclaimed even the title of Prime Minister, who was content to be the King’s manager, and who had sufficient ability and tact to serve him well. During the next dozen years influence proved an excellent substitute for prerogative, and George ruled in the fullest sense as well as reigned.

The unpopularity of the movement which has just been traced was intensified by the fact that the person who had both inspired and launched it was a Scotsman, and a Scotsman who had clambered, or rather vaulted, into the position of Premier. Britain, glorious as the name seemed to its youthful sovereign, was still far from being a truly united kingdom. The Union of 1707 had been accomplished, not as the culmination of growing friendship, but as a last resource to avert war; and the two nations thus summarily conjoined by their rulers had not forgotten their ancient feud. Whilst Englishmen looked in vain for the complete security they had anticipated from the Union, Scotsmen were supposed to be realising to the full their hopes of personal, if not of national, gain; the Scottish Presbyterian was regarded in England as an enemy to the Church, the Scottish Episcopalian as an enemy to the State; two serious rebellions had confirmed the disrepute of both; and the English people retained a shamefaced recollection of the day when their singularly apathetic spirit had permitted a mob of ragged Highlanders5 5 to approach within a hundred miles of London. How bitter was the popular feeling aroused by Prince Charles Edward’s audacious raid may be seen from a paper published at the close of 1746—one of several which Lord Hardwicke denounced, a few weeks later, as "most wicked and dangerous libels." Pouring forth from a country where barelegged urchins, dieted on oatmeal, could obtain education "for a groat a quarter,” strong in their “pauper pride and native insolence,” and all Jacobites at heart, the. Scots were here represented as so successful in exploiting the richer realm that every walk of life was beginning “to abound with their dissonant notes and ragged quality.” “Where there is anything to be got you may be sure to find a number of Scotchmen convened like hounds over a carrion or flies in the shambles.” Murray, then Solicitor-General, with a brother at the Pretender’s Court, was clumsily belaboured under a thin disguise; and we are told that this eloquent lawyer, who, in the opinion of Horace Walpole, “spoke divinely,” was so harsh and shrill in utterance that he was called “Orator Strix, or the Caledonian Screecher.” In so far as this ill-feeling proceeded from political distrust it pervaded for many years the upper as well as the lower class. We have seen how suspicious was the attitude of Parliament towards Scotland in its proceedings with regard to the forfeited estates and sheriffs-depute; and Lord Shelburne affirmed, from personal observation in 1756, that “ all Scotland was enthusiastically devoted to the exiled family, with a very few exceptions.”1 It was inevitable that the memories of 1746 should be revived by the new departure in politics which signalised the accession of George III.; but Bute hardly waited to be attacked; and by inciting pamphleteers to defame the character and belittle the services of Pitt he provoked the storm which was to drive him from power. Even Walpole at the height of his unpopularity had never been assailed with such virulence as was now employed to vilify, ridicule and lampoon the “insolent all-grasping Scot” who was supposed to be governing England in the spirit of a Highland chief, and whose intimacy with the Princess-Dowager was paraded in its worst construction under the emblems of a petticoat and a jack-boot. Such was his personal danger that he had to hire the protection of a “gang of bruisers"; and once at least, despite the efforts of this bodyguard, he was nearly torn in pieces by the mob. Bute’s countrymen shared the odium of their leader. Churchill in caustic verse depicted the gaunt and treeless waste whose denizens, repelled by superior force, had never gained the English Bar, and as teaching its members both eloquence and logic. The writer consoles himself with the reflection that Scots and Irish, however detested by the men of England, are ever welcome to “the English Fair.”

Access to the fertile plain till now, with famine as their tutor, they had learned to overrun it by fraud; Wilkes and other writers complained that these immigrants from the frozen north were fattening on a public revenue to which their country contributed not a fortieth part; John Bull was announced as dead—“choked by inadvertently swallowing a thistle”; ravenous Scots were assumed to be everywhere spoiling his goods; Buckingham House, their headquarters, was nicknamed Holyrood House;2 and pious sufferers did not venture to predict ‘ ‘ how long the Lord will afflict the English nation with the plague of locusts.” One writer, affecting to be more impartial than his fellows, admitted that the Scots did well in subordinate posts, such as the command of a company or a ship,3 but maintained that they had no talent for generalship, knew no more than the Hottentots of art, had little or no science, only a smattering of classical knowledge, and in their personal habits were “too filthy for narration.” Even the Tories and Court Whigs had no good opinion of their new allies. “Like the generality of Scotch,” wrote Shelburne, “Lord Mansfield had no regard to truth whatever”; and Mr. Johnson, a Jacobite and one of Bute’s pensioners, constantly alluded to the Scots in terms of dislike and contempt.

The Scottish place-hunter who was accused of poaching on English preserves naturally cited as his warrant the Act of Union; and, when reminded that that measure was by no means a complete incorporation, since it secured to the smaller nation a separate legal and a separate ecclesiastical system, he retorted that at all events London was the political and social capital of Great Britain. “The plague of locusts” was of course a highly rhetorical figure, but Scotsmen “on the English Establishment” were sufficiently numerous and conspicuous to make such a term effective as a weapon of abuse. In 1762 Bute was Prime Minister; Mansfield was Lord Chief Justice; Kinnoul had just retired with Newcastle from the Cabinet; his brother, Hay Drummond, was Archbishop of York; Oswald and Elliot were Lords of the Treasury; Sir Andrew Mitchell, member for the Elgin Burghs, was British Ambassador at Berlin; Colonel Graeme was the Queen’s Private Secretary; John Douglas, prominent in political controversy and a future bishop, was a Canon of Windsor; Allan Ramsay was the painter, and Robert Adam the architect, in highest favour at Court. Pelham in 1751, when his Government was accused of putting Scotsmen at a disadvantage in the army, had “said he knew little of military promotions, but could observe from the newspapers that there were at least as many Erskines and Dalrymples preferred as of any English name”; and the same conclusion must have been drawn in 1762 by readers of the Gazette. Lord Loudoun commanded the British forces in Portugal; General Murray, one of Wolfe’s Brigadiers, had succeeded that hero when he fell at the taking of Quebec; Colonel Grant in Florida had just inflicted a severe defeat on the Cherokee Indians; Lord Rollo as second-in-command was reducing the Windward Isles; and in Bengal Major Hector Monro had begun the career of conquest which was to culminate in 1764 at Buxar. In two of these instances a Scottish General was assisted by a Scottish Commodore. The two frigates which brought relief to General Murray and averted the recapture of Quebec were commanded by Lord Colville of Culross; and Sir James Douglas cooperated at sea with Lord Rollo in wresting Dominica from the French.

In our own day a far larger share of political, if not of military, posts has been engrossed by Scotsmen without provoking the slightest ill-will; but in these early years of George III. the two peoples differed almost as much in temper and traditions as in manner of speech; and, in so far as prejudice was responsible for the state of things we are considering, it was a prejudice not without excuse. If the Scotsman as an office-holder was regarded with disfavour in London, the Englishman knew that he himself in that capacity would be equally unpopular in Edinburgh; and it was truly urged that the clannishness of the Scots, their habit of acting for and with each other, was one main cause of the animosity they aroused. “Let but the Scotch,” it was said, “mingle among us as they ought, and keep no separate interest, and then we should be as little jealous of them as we are of any other of our fellow-subjects; but while they hang together and are partial, they provoke us to do the same.” It was not, however, mere prejudice that was roused to opposition when the King selected a Scotsman as his chief Minister. Unfriendly critics made too much of the fact that the Scottish heritable jurisdictions were not abolished till 1747, for they had long been obsolete for all but minor purposes in the Lowlands, and in the Highlands, if not wholly unknown, they added nothing to the power of the chiefs; but, unless the views expressed in the Introduction to this work are quite erroneous, the Englishman was amply justified in pointing out that the spirit of baronial power in Scotland had survived its substance, that the political system of that country had no popular basis, and that, so long as its upper class continued to be influenced by ideas which taught them to exalt their own authority and that of the Crown, “constitutional power here in Scottish hands will, with some strong colour of reason, be always dreaded by the English.”

This argument may have been suggested to some extent by the concrete example to which it was applied; for no creation of a malicious fancy could have conformed more exactly to the English idea of a Scotsman than the Earl of Bute. The Scots were supposed to be wedded to the high prerogative associated with their native kings; and here was a “mushroom Minister,” bearing the odious name of Stuart, who had shot into greatness under the favour of a Court. Bute had served no political apprenticeship, and his sudden elevation could be ascribed neither to birth—for he is said to have been "the youngest Earl but one in all Scotland" —nor to superior merit. In 1737 he had been selected by his uncle, Lord Islay, to fill a vacancy amongst the sixteen representative peers, but proved so obstinate in voting, if not in speaking, against the Government that he was put aside at the general election of 1741, and did not reappear in Parliament till, twenty years later, he took his seat as Secretary of State. He lived for long in seclusion in his ancestral island, studying mathematics and the tragic drama; and this "close monasterial retirement” was supposed to have added reserve and distrust to the natural arrogance of a Scottish grandee, and to have unfitted him "for anything but the tyrannic domain of a Highland clan.” In 1750 he became a Lord of the Bedchamber to Frederick Prince of Wales, whose favour he had gained through his proficiency as an actor in private plays and masquerades. Frederick died in 1751, and Bute soon gained a complete ascendency over the mind of the widowed Princess, whatever impression may have been made on her heart by his graceful figure and symmetrical legs. Probably there was no truth in the story of an amorous intrigue, for the favourite’s more reputable opponents admitted that his morals were irreproachable, and that “he was in every respect adapted to the small circle of a coal fire.” Bute had literary and artistic tastes, and was warmly attached to his friends; but he was as vain as he was proud,1 and his looks of wisdom, his studied air of importance, his pompous manner, his slow and sententious utterance were all suggestive of a man who aspired to a reputation for abilities which he was conscious that he did not possess. George II. had a great contempt for “that puppy, Bute"; Prince Frederick remarked, with unusual penetration, “that Bute was a fine showy man who would make an excellent ambassador to a Court where there was no business”; and Shelburne—always, however, an ill-natured critic—expressed much the same opinion: “He excelled, as far as I could observe, in managing the interior of a Court."

Bute’s conduct as a Minister was no better, and in some respects was much worse, than might have been expected from his character as a man. Not a few of Pitt’s colleagues, alarmed by a growing burden of debt, were anxious to bring the war to a close; but Bute surpassed them all, except the Duke of Bedford, in eagerness for peace, and seemed to regard the splendid conquests which were still being announced as mere obstacles in his path. He gave up Martinique without compensation; only the firmness of George Grenville prevailed upon him to extort the poor exchange of Florida for Havanah; and he took advantage of Grenville’s absence from a Cabinet meeting to procure the surrender of Guadaloupe. Public opinion was as little regarded in his choice of friends as in his negotiations for peace. His most trusted political advisers were believed to be Sir Henry Erskine and John Home, a Scottish military officer and a Scottish poet; Henry Fox and Bubb Dodington, the two least reputable of prominent politicians, were both enlisted in his service; he ostentatiously befriended Lord George Sackville, who had been cashiered from the army for cowardice at Minden; and he selected as his Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Francis Dashwood, “a man to whom a sum of five figures was an impenetrable secret.”  The cider tax, which revived Walpole’s detested excise, is said to have been introduced because Dashwood could not be made to understand a proposed tax on linen.

Crude diplomacy and glaring indiscretions were perhaps to be expected from the Court Chamberlain turned statesman; but the new sovereign was to have extinguished party and corruption; and it could hardly have been anticipated that his first Ministry would prove more corrupt and more acutely partisan than even that of Walpole. Bute’s device for emancipating the King from party was to give him a party of his own; and it cost much more to make George III. a Tory leader than it had ever cost to keep his grandfather in Whig chains. Sinecures were multiplied at Court; sixteen peers were created in two years; wasteful private loans were raised; Fox earned a coronet by converting the Pay Office into a mart for votes; and the politicians who persisted in opposition were treated with the utmost rigour. Nobles were deprived of their lord-lieutenancies; even clerks and excisemen were turned out; and it was pleasantly said that Bute had dismissed everybody who owed his place to Whig influence except the King himself . The exhausted statesman was consoled for his exertions by a profusion of rewards. Though his wife had lately inherited an immense fortune, he accepted the Ranger-ship of Richmond Park; pensions, or polite apologies for pensions, were bestowed on his son, his sister, his brother, his half-brother, his three brothers-in-law; and all his dependents were amply provided for at the public expense.

Bute had little or none of the Scotorum, but that quality was the writer whom he retained as his leading counsel in the press. On May 29, 1762, the day on which Bute succeeded Newcastle as First Lord of the Treasury, appeared The Briton, a weekly paper which was soon known to be the work of a man so distinguished in the world of letters as Tobias Smollett. The first and second numbers were fairly moderate in tone; but on June 5 Wilkes started an opposition journal, which he ironically called The North Briton; and Smollett, indignant at the ridicule of his country, at once threw discretion to the winds. Wilkes was his friend, for whom he had recently professed the “warmest regard, affection and attachment”; but that light-hearted demagogue, who never fingered a bribe, was denounced as “the hired voluntary instrument of sedition,” a caitiff swollen with perfidy, hatred and revenge, who had forfeited the protection of the law, and did “not deserve to breathe the free air of heaven.” Smollett had dedicated his History oj England to Pitt, as a tribute to his “shining qualities,” his integrity, his zeal for liberty and the constitution; but Pitt was now “the great methodist of mock patriotism,” a man "who changed his party as often as he changed his clothes, who pocketed the reward of patriotism, and then openly received the wages of a Court.” The foulest shafts of scurrility were, however, reserved for the late Premier, whose methods of corruption were at that moment being imitated and far surpassed by Fox, with this difference, that, whilst Newcastle had lost a fortune in public life, Fox had amassed one. The old Duke of Newcastle, who had just declined a pension, was derided as “the shameless broker of venality, the ludicrous ape of politics; and the writer imagined him “conveyed through the streets upon an ass, his face turned to the tail, with a cap and bells upon his head, a slavering bib under his chin and a rattle in his hand. The Briton died of inanition on February 12, 1763.

We have seen that Bute retired from office in April, 1763. He continued for long to haunt the imagination of his enemies as the evil genius of the Court; but in reality his influence came to an end with the dismissal of the Grenville Ministry in 1765. During these two years, however, he was frequently consulted by the King, and Scottish affairs were conducted according to his parting intimation that they were “to go under the care of my brother as they did under my late uncle." On the death of Argyll in 1761, James Stuart Mackenzie had been recalled from Turin, where he had served for three years as British Minister, to undertake the management of Scotland; but he was employed for some time in negotiating the Peace, and it was not till shortly before Bute3s resignation, when he was appointed Keeper of the Privy Seal, that he applied himself seriously to his Scottish post. A diplomatist, who saw much of the two brothers, has given a very favourable account of both; and as the younger seems to have been universally esteemed, there was probably much truth in the description of him as a clear-headed and singularly honourable man, charitable and generous, as affable as he was dignified, who devoted his leisure to the study of science —“his greatest pleasure to do good, his greatest care to conceal it.” Mackenzie had no great liking for the jobbery which was euphemistically called business, and his published letters are remarkable for their upright and masterful spirit. Carlyle thought him wanting in talent as well as in inclination, and the underlings at Edinburgh were no doubt of that opinion, when he addressed to them such unfamiliar language as this: “I did not want to create a place for the man, but to find a man well qualified for the office.” On another occasion we find him writing with regard to the Chair vacated by Adam Smith in the University of Glasgow: “I have but a single wish that the properest person may be placed in it; that done, I care not one farthing what his name and surname is.” Accordingly, the person recommended by the College was passed over as “knowing no more of Smith’s branch than he does of the secrets of State,” and the Chair was assigned to Thomas Reid. When Grenville and his colleagues had revolted against the paternal supervision of Bute, they sought to disarm his Scottish phalanx, and insisted that his brother should be dismissed, not only from political management, but even from his tenure of the Privy Seal, which had been given to him for life; and to this the King most reluctantly agreed. Mackenzie’s sinecure was, however, restored to him in 1766.

From the year 1765, when the Bute influence was finally eliminated both from the secret counsels of the sovereign and from the public life of Scotland, to the appointment of Henry Dundas as Lord Advocate in 1775, there was no statesman, Scottish by position as well as by birth, whose career was of sufficient importance to link the history of his country with that of Great Britain. “ As to the business of Scotland,” wrote Mackenzie from London in announcing his dismissal, “I suppose they will manage it in the several departments here, under which each branch falls.” It was apparently in some such subordinate fashion that affairs were conducted by Lord Advocate Miller, and by his successor, Montgomery. It will probably suffice to indicate very briefly the part played by Scottish politicians at Westminster during these ten years.

Two of the Scottish members at this period were men of considerable note. We have seen that Oswald had joined the Newcastle-Pitt administration as a Lord of the Treasury; but this post, which he retained as the confidant of Bute, was to be the limit of his progress towards Cabinet rank. When the Government was to be reconstituted in view' of Bute’s intended resignation, Fox recommended "with the greatest confidence" that Oswald should succeed Dashwood as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and should be selected to lead the Commons. “His abilities are so great, and so well known to be so, that nobody will think he was made because he was a Scotchman.” A week later, after he himself had declined the Premiership, Fox most reluctantly concurred in Bute’s desire that the Treasury and Exchequer should be assigned to George Grenville, and advised that Oswald should be appointed President of the Board of Trade. This suggestion, however, proved equally fruitless, and in May, 1763, Oswald had to content himself with the lucrative but nominal office of Joint Vice-Treasurer of Ireland. An offer of the Exchequer, after North had temporarily refused it, was reported to have been made to him in 1767 by Chatham. In 1768 he was compelled by ill-health to retire from Parliament, and he died in the following year.

A man of almost equal ability was Sir Gilbert Elliot, father of the first Earl of Minto. Entering Parliament as member for Selkirkshire in 1754, he was appointed a Lord of the Admiralty in 1756, and, five years later, joined Oswald at the Treasury Board. This post was procured for him by Bute, then merely Groom of the Stole, whom he endeavoured unsuccessfully to reconcile with his own former chief, Pitt. To Bute, when in office, Elliot was sufficiently faithful; but his jealousy was excited when he found that the ex-Premier "will hardly be contented with the retreat he chose"; and, however little he may have acquired of Bute’s influence, he became at least the King’s confidant and tool. Such was his position in the Commons that Horace Walpole referred to his Scottish birth as disqualifying him for leading the House; but that honour would have been ill bestowed on the accomplished Baronet, a philosopher and a poet as well as a master of debate, who made it his principal business to subordinate Parliament to the Court. Placemen and pensioners, anxious to know whether His Majesty’s Government was to be supported or opposed, looked to Elliot as their guide; and he was frequently employed in this capacity to humiliate even so subservient a Minister as Lord North. Too familiar with the palace back-stairs to receive a higher office than that—a very lucrative one—of Treasurer of the Navy, he had more than his share of those apologies for salary which were the object of his ambition. As Treasurer of the Chambers and Keeper of the Scottish Signet he enjoyed more than £4000 a year; and his son was a captain on half-pay at the precocious age of ten. There was nothing offensive to Scottish politicians in this illiberal and not very dignified career; but Elliot was reputed arrogant and selfish, and, unlike Oswald, was not popular with his countrymen.

A Scottish Premier, obnoxious as such to the English public, could not fail to win the sympathy of his countrymen in Parliament; and, luckily for Bute, his uncle, the Duke of Argyll, who had so long managed Scotland for the Whigs, died only five months after the accession of George III.; but the training of the Scottish members had so exactly fitted them to serve as “King’s friends ” that they must in any case have found their way into that corps. Each of the sixteen peers was understood to draw a pension; and the spokesmen of the militia agitation, which had not yet died down, were more frank than respectful in their allusions to the forty-five Commons.  Carlyle argued that the freeholders need be restrained by no personal motives from calling their representatives to account, since, “had they any favours to ask for their sons or nephews, surely the very worst suitors they could employ are those dependent men, whose sole end in parliament is to obtain posts and provisions for themselves”; and a writer in the Edinburgh Courant of January 13, 1762, lamented that nobody took the trouble to inquire whether the Scotsmen at Westminster were fulfilling their duty to the nation or whether they are gone like our drovers to sell their votes as the others do their cattle."

Bute's capture of the Scottish representation was not, however, complete. When the Preliminaries of Peace came before Parliament in December, 1762, many of the Whigs feigned sickness or went out of town; but in the small minority which ventured to divide the House of Commons we find four Scottish members—Sir Alexander Gilmour, Midlothian; Daniel Campbell, Lanarkshire ; James Murray, Wigtownshire; George Dempster, Forfar Burghs; and the second of these acted as teller with that reviler of his country, John Wilkes. For their votes on this occasion the four members seem to have been called to account by their constituents. At all events, “instructions" were drawn up, censuring their factious conduct and admonishing them to concur in any measures that might be proposed "for deterring bad men from further attempts to weaken the sense of subordination among the people and the respect due to good government and order." With the exception of Campbell, who had not yet reached London, they did concur in one such measure at the opening of the following session; for they voted with the Government against the motion of Pitt to omit the word "traitorous" from the resolution condemning No. 45 of the North Briton. Apart, however, from this incident, "the scabby sheep," as Mackenzie called them, could be neither coaxed nor driven into the Tory fold. Campbell had not lowered his Whig colours when he was unseated at the general election of 1768, and Murray, for anything that appears to the contrary, may have been equally constant. Gilmour was an adherent of Newcastle, Dempster of Shelburne; and both of them supported the Eockingham Ministry in its effort to conciliate the colonies, whilst Lord Advocate Miller, with the Scottish phalanx at his back, was violently hostile. John Dalrymple, author of a well-known historical compilation, attempted in 1768 to win over the "first county of Scotland to the interests of his Majesty.” Gilmour retained his seat; but at the next general election in 1774 “the very best of kings” obtained a long, though uneasy, lease of Midlothian through the return of Henry Dundas.


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