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An Outline of the Relations between England and Scotland (500-1707)
Chapter XI - The Union of the Parliaments 1689 - 1707

On April 4th, 1689, a Convention of the Estates of Scotland met to consider the new situation which had been created by the course of events in England. They had no difficulty in determining their course of action, nor any scruples about deposing James, who was declared to have forfeited his right to the crown. A list was drawn up of the king's misdeeds. They included "erecting schools and societies of Jesuits, making papists officers of state", taxation and the maintenance of a standing army without consent of Parliament, illegal imprisonments, fines, and forfeitures, and interference with the charters of burghs. The crown was then offered to William and Mary, but upon certain strictly defined conditions. All the acts of the late king which were included in the list of his offences must be recognized as illegal: no Roman Catholic might be King or Queen of Scotland; and the new sovereigns must agree to the re-establishment of Presbytery as the national religion. It was obvious that the nation was not unanimous.

  "To the Lords of Convention, 'twas Claverhouse spoke,
   Ere the King's crown go down there are crowns to be broke."

The opponents of the revolution settlement consisted mainly of the old Royalist and Episcopalian party, the representatives of those who had followed Montrose to victory, and the supporters of the Restoration Government. As the Great Rebellion had made Royalists of the Scottish Episcopalians, so the Revolution could not but convert them into Jacobites. Their leader was James Graham of Claverhouse, who retreated from Edinburgh to the north to prepare for a campaign against the new government. The discontent was not confined to the Episcopalian party. Such Roman Catholics as there were in Scotland at the time were prepared to take up arms for a Stuart king who was a devout adherent of their religion. Moreover, the Presbyterians themselves were not united. A party which was to grow in strength, and which now included a considerable number of extreme Presbyterians, still longed, in spite of their experience of Charles II, for a covenanted king, and looked with great distrust upon William and Mary. The triumphant party of moderate Presbyterians, who probably represented most faithfully the feeling of the nation, acted throughout with considerable wisdom. The acceptance of the crown converted the Convention into a Parliament, and the Estates set themselves to obtain, in the first place, their own freedom from the tyranny of the committee known as the "Lords of the Articles", through which James VI and his successors had kept the Parliament in subjection. William was unwilling to lose entirely this method of controlling his new subjects, but he had to give way. The Parliament rescinded the Act of Charles II asserting his majesty's supremacy "over all persons and in all causes ecclesiastical" as "inconsistent with the establishment of Church government now desired", but, in the military crisis which threatened them, they proceeded no further than to bring in an Act abolishing Prelacy and all superiority of office in the Church of Scotland.

While William's first Parliament was debating, his enemies were entering upon a struggle which was destined to be brief. Edinburgh Castle held out for King James till June 14th, 1689, when its captain, the Duke of Gordon, capitulated. Graham of Claverhouse, now Viscount Dundee, had collected an army of Highlanders, against whom William sent General Mackay, a Scotsman who had served in Holland. Mackay followed Dundee through the Highlands to Elgin and on to Inverness, and finally, after many wanderings, the two armies met in the pass of Killiecrankie. Dundee and his Highlanders were victorious, but Dundee himself was killed in the battle, and his death proved a fatal blow to the Jacobite cause. After some delay Mackay was able to attain the object for which the battle had been fought--the possession of Blair Athole Castle. The military resistance soon came to an end.

The ecclesiastical settlement followed the suppression of the rebellion. The deprivation of nonjuring clergymen had been proceeding since the establishment of the new Government, and in 1690 an act was passed restoring to their parishes the Presbyterian clergy who had been ejected under Charles II. A small temporary provision was made for their successors, who were now, in turn, expelled. On the 26th May, 1690, the Parliament adopted the Confession of Faith, although it refused to be committed to the Covenant. The Presbyterian form of Church government was established; but King William succeeded in maintaining some check on the General Assembly, and toleration was granted to such Episcopalian dissenters as were willing to take the oath of allegiance. On the other hand, acceptance of the Confession of Faith was made a test for professors in the universities. The changes were carried out with little disturbance to the peace, there was no blood spilt, and except for some rough usage of Episcopalians in the west (known as the "rabbling of the curates"), there was nothing in the way of outrage or insult. The credit of the settlement belongs to William Carstares, afterwards Principal of the University of Edinburgh, whose tact and wisdom overcame many difficulties.

The personal union of Scotland and England had created no special difficulties while both countries were under the rule of an absolute monarch. The policy of both was alike, because it was guided by one supreme ruler. But the accession of a constitutional king, with a parliamentary title, at once created many problems difficult of solution, and made a more complete union absolutely necessary. The Union of 1707 was thus the natural consequence of the Revolution of 1689,although, at the time of the Revolution, scrupulous care was taken, alike by the new king and by his English Parliament, to recognize the existence of Scotland as a separate kingdom. The Scottish Parliament, which regarded itself as the ruler of the country, found itself hampered and restricted by William's action. It was allowed no voice on questions of foreign policy, and its conduct of home affairs met with not infrequent interference, which roused the indignation of Scottish politicians, and especially of the section which followed Fletcher of Saltoun. Several causes combined to add to the unpopularity which William had acquired through the occasional friction with the Parliament. Scotland had ceased to have any interest in the war, and its prolongation constituted a standing grievance, of which the partisans of the Stuarts were not slow to avail themselves.

There were two events, in particular, which roused widespread resentment in Scotland. These were the Massacre of Glencoe, and the failure of the scheme for colonizing the Isthmus of Darien. The story of Glencoe has been often told. The 31st December, 1691, had been appointed as the latest day on which the government would receive the submission of the Highland chiefs. MacDonald of Glencoe delayed till the last moment, and then proceeded to Fort-William, where a fortress had just been erected, to take the oath in the presence of its commander, who had no power to receive it. From Fort-William he had to go to Inverary, to take the oath before the sheriff of Argyll, and he did so on the 6th January, 1692. The six days' delay placed him and his clan in the power of men who were unlikely to show any mercy to the name of MacDonald. Acting under instructions from King William, the nature of which has been matter of dispute, Campbell of Glenlyon, acting with the knowledge of Breadalbane and Sir John Dalrymple of Stair, the Secretary of State, and as their tool, entered the pass of Glencoe on the 1st February, 1692. The MacDonalds, trusting in the assurances which had been given by the Government, seem to have suspected no evil from this armed visit of their traditional enemies, the Campbells, and received them with hospitality. While they were living peaceably, all possible retreat was being cut off from the unfortunate MacDonalds by the closing of the passes, and on the 13th effect was given to the dastardly scheme. It failed, however, to achieve its full object--the extirpation of the clan. Many escaped to the hills; but the chief himself and over thirty others were murdered in cold blood. The news of the massacre roused a fierce flame of indignation, not only in the Highlands, but throughout the Lowlands as well, and the Jacobites did not fail to make use of it. A commission was appointed to enquire into the circumstances, and it severely censured Dalrymple, and charged Breadalbane with treason, while many blamed, possibly unjustly, the king himself.

The other grievance was of a different nature. About 1695, William Paterson, the founder of the Bank of England, suggested the formation of a Scottish company to trade to Africa and the Indies. It was originally known as the African Company, but it was destined to be popularly remembered by the name of its most notable failure--the Darien Company. It received very full powers from the Scottish Parliament, powers of military colonization as well as trading privileges. These powers aroused great jealousy and indignation in England, and the House of Commons decided that, as the company had its headquarters in London, the directors were guilty of high crimes and misdemeanours. There followed a failure of the English capital on which the promoters had reckoned, but shares to the value of L400,000 (on which L219,094 was paid up) were subscribed in Scotland. At first the company was a prosperous trading concern, but its only attempt at colonization involved it in ruin. Paterson wished his fellow-countrymen to found a colony in the Isthmus of Panama, and to attract thither the whole trade of North and South America. The ports of the colony were to be open to ships of all nations. In the end of 1698 twelve hundred Scots landed on the shore of the Gulf of Darien, without organization and without the restraint of responsibility to any government. They soon had difficulties with their Spanish neighbours, and the English colonists at New York, Barbadoes, and Jamaica were warned to render them no assistance. Disease and famine completed the tale of misery, and the first colonists deserted their posts. Their successors, who arrived to find empty huts, surrounded by lonely Scottish graves, were soon in worse plight, and they were driven out by a band of Spaniards. The unfortunate company lingered on for some time, but merely as traders. The Scots blamed the king's ill-will for their failure, and he became more than ever unpopular in Scotland. The moral of the whole story was that only through the corporate union of the two countries could trade jealousies and the danger of rival schemes of colonization be avoided.

In the reign of Charles II the Scots, who felt keenly the loss of the freedom of trade which they had enjoyed under Cromwell, had themselves broached the question of union, and William had brought it forward at the beginning of his reign. It was, however, reserved for his successor to see it carried. In March, 1702, the king died. The death of "William II", as his title ran in the kingdom of Scotland, was received with a feeling amounting almost to satisfaction. The first English Parliament of Queen Anne agreed to the appointment of commissioners to discuss terms of union, and the Estates of Scotland chose representatives to meet them. But the English refused to give freedom of trade, and so the negotiations broke down. In reply, the Scottish Parliament removed the restrictions on the import of wines from France, with which country England was now at war. In the summer of 1703 the Scots passed an Act of Security, which invested the Parliament with the power of the crown in case of the queen's dying without heirs, and entrusted to it the choice of a Protestant sovereign "from the royal line". It refused to such king or queen, if also sovereign of England, the power of declaring war or making peace without the consent of Parliament, and it enacted that the union of the crowns should determine after the queen's death unless Scotland was admitted to equal trade and navigation privileges with England. Further, the act provided for the compulsory training of every Scotsman to bear arms, in order that the country might, if necessary, defend its independence by the sword. The queen's consent to the Act of Security was refused, and the bitterness of the national feeling was accentuated by the suspicion of a Jacobite plot. Parliament had been adjourned on 16th September, 1703. When it met in 1704 it again passed the Act of Security, and an important section began to argue that the royal assent was merely a usual form, and not an indispensable authentication of an act. For some time, it seemed as if the two countries were on the brink of war. But, as the union of the crowns had been rendered possible by the self-restraint of a nation who could accept their hereditary enemy as their hereditary sovereign, so now Queen Anne's advisers resolved, with patient wisdom, to secure, at all hazards, the union of the kingdoms.

It was not an easy task, even in England, for there could be no union without complete freedom of trade, and many Englishmen were most unwilling to yield on this point. In Scotland the difficulties to be overcome were much greater. The whole nation, irrespective of politics and religion, felt bitterly the indignity of surrendering the independent existence for which Scotland had fought for four hundred years. It could not but be difficult to reconcile an ancient and high-spirited people to incorporation with a larger and more powerful neighbour, and the whole population mourned the approaching loss of their Parliament and their autonomy. Almost every section had special reasons for opposing the measure. For the Jacobites an Act of Union meant that Scotland was irretrievably committed to the Hanoverian succession, and whatever force the Jacobites might be able to raise after the queen's death must take action in the shape of a rebellion against the _de facto_ government. It deprived them of all hope of seizing the reins of power, and of using the machinery of government in Scotland for the good of their cause--a _coup d'etat_ of which the Act of Security gave considerable chance. On this very account the triumphant Presbyterians were anxious to carry the union scheme, and the correspondence of the Electress Sophia proves that the negotiations for union were looked upon at Hanover as solely an important factor in the succession controversy. But the recently re-established Presbyterian Church of Scotland regarded with great anxiety a union with an Episcopalian country, and hesitated to place their dearly won freedom at the mercy of a Parliament the large majority of whom were Episcopalians. The more extreme Presbyterians, and especially the Cameronians of the west, were bitterly opposed to the project. They protested against becoming subject to a Parliament in whose deliberations the English bishops had an important voice, and against accepting a king who had been educated as a Lutheran, and they clamoured for covenanted uniformity and a covenanted monarch. By a curious irony of fate, the Scottish Episcopalians were forced by their Jacobite leanings to act with the extreme Presbyterians, and to oppose the scheme of amalgamation with an Episcopalian country. The legal interest was strongly against a proposal that might reduce the importance of Scots law and of Scottish lawyers, while the populace of Edinburgh were furious at the suggestion of a union, whose result must be to remove at once one of the glories of their city and a valuable source of income. There was still another body of opponents. The reign of William had been remarkable for the rise of political parties. The two main factions were known as Williamites and Cavaliers, and in addition to these there had grown up a Patriot or Country party. It was brought into existence by the enthusiasm of Fletcher of Saltoun, and it was based upon an antiquarian revival which may be compared with the mediaeval attempts to revive the Republic of Rome. The aim of the patriots was to maintain the independence of Scotland, and they attempted to show that the Scottish crown had never been under feudal obligations to England, and that the Scottish Parliament had always possessed sovereign rights, and could govern independently of the will of the monarch. They were neither Jacobites nor Hanoverians; but they held that if the foreign domination, of which they had complained under William, were to continue, it mattered little whether it emanated from St. Germains or from the Court of St. James's, and they had combined with the Jacobites to pass the Act of Security.

Such was the complicated situation with which the English Government had to deal. Their first step was to advise Queen Anne to assent to the Actof Security, and so to conserve the dignity and _amour propre_ of the Scottish Parliament. Commissioners were then appointed to negotiate fora union. No attempt was made to conciliate the Jacobites, for no attempt could have met with any kind of success. Nor did the commissioners make any effort to satisfy the more extreme Presbyterians, who sullenly refused to acknowledge the union when it became an accomplished fact, and who remained to hamper the Government when the Jacobite troubles commenced. An assurance that there would be no interference with the Church of Scotland as by law established, and a guarantee that the universities would be maintained in their _status quo_, satisfied the moderate Presbyterians, and removed their scruples. Unlike James VI and Cromwell, the advisers of Queen Anne declared their intention of preserving the independent Scots law and the independent Scottish courts of justice, and these guarantees weakened the arguments of the Patriot party. But above all the English proposals won the support of the ever-increasing commercial interest in Scotland by conceding freedom of trade in a complete form. They agreed that "all parts of the United Kingdom of Great Britain be under the same regulations, prohibitions, and restrictions, and liable to equal impositions and duties for export and import". The adjustment of financial obligations was admitted to involve some injustice to Scotland, and an "equivalent" was allowed, to compensate for the responsibility now accruing to Scotland in connection with the English National Debt. It remained to adjust the representation of Scotland in the united Parliament. It was at first proposed to allow only thirty-eight members, but the number was finally raised to forty-five. Thirty of these represented the shires. Each shire was to elect one representative, except the three groups of Bute and Caithness, Clackmannan and Kinross, and Nairn and Cromarty. In each group the election was made alternately by the two counties. Thus Bute, Clackmannan, and Nairn each sent a member in 1708, and Caithness, Kinross, and Cromarty in 1710. The device is sufficiently unusual to deserve mention. The burghs were divided into fifteen groups, each of which was given one member. In this form, after considerable difficulty, the act was carried both in Scotland and in England. It was a union much less extensive than that which had been planned by James VI or that which had been in actual force under Cromwell. The existence of a separate Church, governed differently from the English Establishment, and the maintenance of a separate legal code and a separate judicature have helped to preserve some of the national characteristics of the Scots. Not for many years did the union become popular in Scotland, and not for many years did the two nations become really united. It might, in fact, be said that the force of steam has accomplished what law has failed to do, and that the real incorporation of Scotland with England dates from the introduction of railways.


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