AT the period of Queen Anne’s accession, Scotland was divided into three parties. These were, first, the Whigs, stanch favourers of the Revolution, in the former reign called Williamites; secondly, the Tories, or Jacobites, attached to the late King; and thirdly, a party sprung up in consequence of the general complaints arising out or the Darien adventure, who associated themselves for asserting the rights and independence of Scotland.
This latter association comprehended several men of talent, among whom Fletcher of Saltoun, already mentioned, was the most distinguished. They professed, that providing the claims and rights of the country were ascertained and secured against the encroaching influence of England, they did not care whether Anne or her brother, the titular Prince of Wales, was called to the throne. These statesmen called themselves the Country Party, as embracing exclusively for their object the interests of Scotland alone. This party, formed upon a plan and principle of political conduct hitherto unknown in the Scottish Parliament, was numerous, bold, active, and eloquent; and as a critical period had arrived in which the measures to be taken in Scotland must necessarily greatly affect the united empire, her claims could no longer be treated with indifference or neglect, and the voice of her patriots disregarded.
The conjuncture which gave Scotland new consequence, was as follows:— When Queen Anne was named to succeed to the English throne, on the death of her sister Mary, and brother-in-law William III., she had a family. But the young Duke of Gloucester, the last of her children, had died before her accession to the crown, and there were no hopes of her having more; it became, therefore, necessary to make provision for the succession to the crown when the new Queen should die. The titular Prince of Wales, son of the abdicated James, was undoubtedly the next heir; but he was a Catholic, bred up in the court of France, inheriting all the extravagant claims, and probably the arbitrary sentiments, of his father; and to call him to the throne, would be in all likelihood to undo the settlement between king and people which had taken place at the Revolution. The English legislature, therefore, turned their eyes to another descendant of King James VI., namely, Sophia, the Electress Dowager of Hanover, grand-daughter of James the First of England and Sixth of Scotland, by the marriage of his daughter, Elizabeth, with the Prince Palatine. This Princess was the nearest Protestant heir in blood to Queen Anne, supposing the claims of the son of James II. were to be passed over. She was a Protestant, and would necessarily, by accepting the crown, become bound to maintain the civil and religions rights of the nation, as settled at the Revolution, upon which her own right would be dependent. For these weighty reasons the English Parliament passed an Act of Succession, settling the crown, on the failure of Queen Anne and her issue, upon the Princess Sophia, Electress Dowager of Hanover, and her descendants. This act, most important in its purport and consequences, was passed in June, 1700.
It became of the very last importance to Queen Anne’s administration, to induce, if possible, the legislation of Scotland to settle the crown of that kingdom on the same series of heirs to which that of England was destined. If, after the death of Queen Anne, the Scottish nation, instead of uniting in choosing the Electress Sophia, should call to the crown the titular Prince of Wales, the two kingdoms would again be separated, after having been under the same sway for a century, and all the evils of mutual hostilities betwixt the two extremities of the island, encouraged by the alliance and assistance of France, must again distract Great Britain. It became necessary, therefore, to try every species of persuasion to prevent a consequence fraught with so much mischief. But Scotland was not in a humour to be either threatened or soothed into the views of England on this important occasion. The whole party of Anti–Revolutionists, Jacobites, or, as they called themselves, Cavaliers, although they thought it prudent for the present to submit to Queen Anne, entertained strong hopes that she herself was favourable to the succession of her brother after her own death; while their principles dictated to them that the wrong, as they termed it, done to James II., ought as speedily as possible to be atoned for by the restoration of his son. They were of course directly and violently hostile to the proposed Act of Settlement in favour of the Electress Sophia. The country party, headed by the Duke of Hamilton, and the Marquis of Tweeddale, opposed the Act of Succession for different reasons. They resolved to take this favourable opportunity to diminish or destroy the ascendency which had been exercised by England respecting the affairs of Scotland, and which, in the case of Darien, had been so unjustly and unworthily employed to thwart and disappoint a national scheme. They determined to obtain for Scotland a share in the plantation trade of England, and a freedom from the restrictions imposed by the English Navigation Act, and other regulations enacted to secure a monopoly of trade to the English nation. Until these points were determined in favour of Scotland, they resolved they would not agree to pass the Act of Succession, boldly alleging, that unless the rights and privileges of Scotland were to be respected, it was of little consequence whether she chose a king from Hanover or Saint Germains. The whole people of Scotland, excepting those actually engaged in the administration, or expecting favours from the court, resolutely adopted the same sentiments, and seemed resolved to abide all the consequences of a separation of the two kingdoms, nay, of a war with England, rather than name the Electress Sophia successor to the crown, till the country was admitted to an equitable portion of those commercial privileges which England retained with a tenacious grasp. The crisis seemed an opportunity of Heaven’s sending, to give Scotland consequence enough to insist on her rights. With this determined purpose, the country party in the Scottish Parliament, instead of adopting, as the English ministers eagerly desired, the Protestant Act of Succession, proposed a measure called an Act of Security. By this it was provided, that in case of Queen Anne’s death without children, the whole power of the crown should, for the time, be lodged in the Scottish Parliament, who were directed to choose a successor of the royal line and Protestant religion. But the choice was to be made with this special reservation, that the person so chosen should take the throne only under such conditions of government as should secure, from English or foreign influence, the honour and independence of the Scottish crown and nation. It was further stipulated, that the same person should be incapable of holding the crowns of both kingdoms, unless the Scottish people were admitted to share with the English the full benefits of trade and navigation. That the nation might assume an appearance of strength necessary to support such lofty pretensions, it was provided by the same statute, that the whole men in Scotland capable of bearing arms, should be trained to the use of them by monthly drills ; and, that the influence of England might expire at the same time with the life of the Queen, it was provided that all commissions of the officers of state, as well as those of the military employed by them, should cease and lose effect so soon as Anne’s death took place. This formidable act, which in fact hurled the gauntlet of defiance at the far stronger kingdom of England, was debated in the Scottish Parliament, clause by clause, and article by article, with the utmost fierceness and tumult. “ We were often,” says an eyewitness, “ in the form of a Polish Diet, with our swords in our hands, or at least our hands on our swords.”
The Act of Security was carried in Parliament by a decided majority, but the Queen’s commissioner refused the royal assent to so violent a statute. The Parliament, on their part, would grant no supplies, and when such were requested by the members of administration, the hall rung with the shouts of “ Liberty before subsidy! “ The Parliament was adjourned amidst the mutual discontent of both Ministers and Opposition. The dispute betwixt the two nations was embroiled during the recess of Parliament by intrigues. Simon Fraser of Beaufort, afterwards Lord Lovat, had undertaken to be the agent of France In a Jacobite conspiracy, which he afterwards discovered to Government, involving in his accusation the Duke of Hamilton, and other noblemen. The persons accused defended themselves by alleging that the plot was a mere pretext, devised by the Duke of Queensberry, to whom it had been discovered by Fraser. The English House of Peers, in allusion to this genuine or pretended discovery, passed a vote, that a dangerous plot had existed in Scotland, and that it had its origin in the desire to overthrow the Protestant succession in that nation. This resolution was highly resented by the Scots, being considered as an unauthorized interference, on the part of the English peers, with the concerns of another kingdom. Every thing seemed tending to a positive rupture between the sister kingdoms; and yet, my dear child, it was from this state of things that the healing measure of an incorporating Union finally took its rise.
In the very difficult and critical conduct which the Queen had to observe betwixt two high-spirited nations, whose true interest it was to enter into the strictest friendship and alliance, but whose irritated passions for the present breathed nothing but animosity, Anne had the good fortune to be assisted by the wise counsels of Godolphin, one of the most sagacious and profound ministers who ever advised a crowned head. By his recommendation, the Queen proceeded upon a plan, which, while at first sight it seemed to widen the breach between the two nations, was in the end to prove the means of compelling both to lay aside their mutual prejudices and animosities. The scheme of a Union was to be proceeded upon, like that of breaking two spirited horses to join in drawing the same yoke, when it is of importance to teach them, that by moving in unison, and at an equal pace, the task will be easy to them both. Godolphin’s first advice to the Queen was, to suffer the Scottish Act of Security to pass. The English, in their superior wealth and importance, had for many years looked with great contempt on the Scottish nation, as compared with themselves, and were prejudiced against the Union, as a man of wealth and importance might be against a match with a female in an inferior rank of society. It was necessary to change this feeling, and to show plainly to the English people, that, if the Scots were not allied with them in intimate friendship, they might prove dangerous enemies. The Act of Security finally passed in 1704, having, according to Godolphin’s advice, received the Queen’s assent; and the Scottish Parliament, as the provisions of the statute bore, immediately began to train their countrymen, who have always been attached to the use of arms, and easily submit to military discipline.
The effect of these formidable preparations was, to arouse the English from their indifference to Scottish affairs. Scotland might be poor, but her numerous levies, under sanction of the Act of Security, were not the less formidable. A sudden inroad on Newcastle, as in the great Civil War, would distress London, by interrupting the coal trade; and whatever might be the event, the prospect of a civil war, as it might be termed, after so long a tract of peace, was doubtful and dangerous.
The English Parliament, therefore, showed a mixture of resentment tempered with a desire of conciliation. They enacted regulations against the Scottish trade, and ordered the Border towns of Newcastle, Berwick, and Carlisle, to be fortified and garrisoned; but they declined, at the same time, the proposed measure of enquiring concerning the person who advised the Queen to consent to the Act of Security. In abstaining from this, they paid respect to Scottish independence, and at the same time, by empowering the Queen to nominate Commissioners for a Union, they seemed to hold out the olive branch to the sister kingdom. While this lowering hurricane appeared to be gathering darker and darker betwixt the two nations, an incident took place which greatly inflamed their mutual resentment.
A Scottish ship, equipped for a voyage to India, had been seized and detained in the Thames, at the instance of the English East India Company. The Scots were not. in a humour to endure this; and by way of reprisal, they took possession of a large English vessel trading to India, called the Worcester, which had been forced into the frith of Forth by unfavourable weather. There was something suspicious about this vessel. Her men were numerous, and had the air of pirates. She was better provided with guns and ammunition, than is usual for vessels fitted out merely for objects of trade. A cipher was found among her papers, for corresponding with the owners, as if upon secret and dangerous business. All these mysterious circumstances seemed to intimate, that the Worcester, as was not uncommon, under the semblance of a trader, had been equipped for the purpose of exercising, when in remote Indian latitudes, the profession of a bucanier or pirate. One of the seamen belonging to this ship, named Haines, having been ashore with some company, and drinking rather freely, fell into a fit of melancholy, an effect which liquor produces on some constitutions, and in that humour told those who were present, that it is a wonder his captain and crew were not lost at sea, considering the wickedness which had been done aboard that ship which was lying in the roadstead. Upon these and similar hints of something doubtful or illegal, the Scottish authorities imprisoned the officers and sailors of the Worcester, and examined them rigorously, in order to discover what the expressions of their shipmate referred to.
Among other persons interrogated, a black slave of the captain (surely a most suspicious witness) told a story, that the Worcester, during their late voyage, had, upon the Coromandel coast, near Calicut, engaged, and finally boarded and captured a vessel bearing a red nag, and manned with English, or Scotch, or at least with people speaking the English language; that they had thrown the crew overboard, and disposed of the vessel and the cargo to a native merchant. This account was in some degree countenanced by the surgeon of the Worcester, who, in confirmation of the slave’s story, said, that being on shore in a harbour on the coast of Malabar, he heard the discharge of great guns at sea; and saw the Worcester, which had been out on a cruize, come in next morning with another vessel under her stern, which he understood was afterwards sold to a native merchant. Four days afterwards he went on board the Worcester, and finding her decks lumbered with goods, made some enquiry of the crew how they had come by them, but was checked for doing so by the mate, and desired to confine himself to his own business. Farther, the surgeon stated, that he was called to dress the wounds of several of the men, but the captain and mate forbade him to ask, or the patients to answer, how they came by their hurts. Another black servant, or slave, besides the one before mentioned, had not himself seen the capture of the supposed ship, or the death of the crew, but had been told of It by the first informer, shortly after it happened. Lastly, a Scottish witness declared that Green, the captain of the vessel, had shown him a seal bearing the arms of the Scottish African and Indian Company.
This story was greatly too vague to have been admitted to credit on any occasion when men’s minds were cool and their judgments unprejudiced. But the Scottish nation was almost frantic with resentment on the subject of Darien. One of the vessels belonging to that unfortunate Company, called the Rising Sun, and commanded by Captain Robert Drummond, had been amissing for some time; and it was received as indisputable truth, that this must have been the vessel taken by the Worcester, and that her master and men had been murdered, according to the black slave’s declaration.
Under this cloud of prejudice, Green, with his mate and crew, fifteen men in all, were brought to trial for their lives. Three of these unfortunate men, Linstead, the supercargo’s mate, Bruckley, the cooper of the Worcester, and Haines, whose gloomy hints gave the first suspicion, are said to have uttered declarations before trial, confirming the truth of the charge, and admitting that the vessel so seized upon was the Rising Sun, and that Captain Robert Drummond and his crew were the persons murdered in the course of that act of piracy. But Haines seems to have laboured under attacks of hypochondria, which sometimes induce men to suppose themselves spectators and accomplices in crimes which have no real existence. Linstead, like the surgeon May, only spoke to a hearsay story, and that of Bruckley was far from being clear. It will hereafter be shown, that if any ship was actually taken by Green and his crew, it could not be that of Captain Drummond, which met a different fate. This makes it probable, that these confessions were made by the prisoners only in the hope of saving their own lives, endangered by the fury of the Scottish people. And it is certain that none of these declarations were read, or produced as evidence, in court, nor were those stated to have made them examined as witnesses.
The trial of Green and his crew took place before the High Court of Admiralty; and a jury, upon the sole evidence of the black slave, — for the rest was made up of suggestions, insinuations, and reports, taken from hearsay;-brought in a verdict of guilty against Green and all his crew. The Government were disposed to have obtained a reprieve from the crown for the prisoners, whose guilt was so very doubtful; but the mob of Edinburgh, at all times a fierce and intractable multitude, arose in great numbers, and demanded their lives with such an appearance of uncontrollable fury, that the authorities became intimidated, and yielded. Captain Green himself, Madder his first mate, and Simpson the gunner, were dragged to Leith, loaded by the way with curses and execrations,(April, 1705) and even struck at and pelted by the furious populace; and finally executed in terms of their sentence, denying with their last breath the crime which they were accused of. The ferment in Scotland was somewhat appeased by this act of vengeance, for it has no title to be called a deed of justice. The remainder of Green’s crew were dismissed after a long imprisonment, during the course of which cooler reflection induced doubts of the validity of the sentence. At a much later period it appeared, that, if the Worcester had committed an act of piracy upon any vessel, it could not at least have been on the Rising Sun, which ship had been cast away on the island of Madagascar, when the crew were cut off by the natives, excepting Captain Drummond himself, whom Drury, an English seaman in similar circumstances, found alive upon the island.
This unhappy affair, in which the Scots, by their precipitate and unjust procedure, gave the deepest offence to the English nation, tended greatly to increase the mutual prejudices and animosity of the people of both countries against each other. But the very extremity of their mutual enmity inclined wise men of both nations to be more disposed to submit to a Union, with all the inconveniences and difficulties which must attend the progress of such a measure, rather than that the two divisions of the same island should again engage in intestine war. The principal obstacle to a Union, so far as England was concerned, lay in a narrow-minded view of the commercial interests of the nation, and a fear of the loss which might accrue by admitting the Scots to a share of their plantation trade, and other privileges. But it was not difficult to show, even to the persons most interested, that public credit and private property would suffer immeasurably more by a war with Scotland, than by sacrificing to peace and unity some share in the general commerce. It is true, the opulence of England, the command of men, the many victorious troops which she then had in the field, under the best commanders in Europe, seemed to ensure final victory, if the two nations should come to open war. But a war with Scotland was always more easily begun than ended; and wise men saw it would be better to secure the friendship of that kingdom by an agreement on the basis or mutual advantage, than to incur the risk of invading, and the final necessity of securing it as a conquered country, by means of forts and garrisons. In the one case, Scotland would become an integral part of the empire; and, improving in the arts of peaceful industry, must necessarily contribute to the prosperity of England. In the case supposed, she must long remain a discontented and disaffected province, in which the exiled family of James II. and his allies the French would always find friends and correspondents. English statesmen were therefore desirous of a union. But they stipulated that it should be of the most intimate kind; such as should free England from the great inconvenience arising from the Scottish nation possessing a separate legislature and constitution of her own: and in order to blend her interests Indelibly with those of England, they demanded that the supreme power of the state should be reposed in a Parliament of the united countries, to which Scotland might send a certain proportion of members, hut which should meet in the English capital, and be of course more immediately under the influence of English counsels and interests.
The Scottish nation, on the other hand, which had of late become very sensible of the benefits of foreign trade, were extremely desirous of a federative union, which should admit them to the commercial advantages which they coveted. But while they grasped at a share in the English trade, they desired that Scotland should retain her rights as a separate kingdom, making as heretofore her own laws, and adopting her own public measures, uncontrolled by the domination of England. Here, therefore, occurred a preliminary point of dispute, which was necessarily to be settled previous to the farther progress of the treaty.
In order to adjust the character of the proposed Union-treaty in this and other particulars, commissioners for both kingdoms were appointed to make a preliminary enquiry, and report upon the articles which ought to be adopted as the foundation of the measure, and which report was afterwards to be subjected to the Legislatures of both kingdoms.
The English and Scottish commissioners being both chosen by the Queen, that is, by Godolphin and the Queen’s ministers, were indeed taken from different parties, but carefully selected, so as to preserve a majority of those who could be reckoned upon as friendly to the treaty, and who would be sure to do their utmost to remove such obstacles as might arise in the discussion. I will briefly tell you the result of these numerous and anxious debates. The Scottish commissioners, after a vain struggle, were compelled to submit to an incorporating Union, as that which alone would ensure the purposes of combining England and Scotland into one single nation, to be governed in its political measures by the same Parliament. It was agreed, that in contributing to the support of the general expenses of the kingdom, Scotland should pay a certain proportion of taxes, which were adjusted by calculation. But in consideration that the Scots, whose revenue, though small, was unencumbered, must thereafter become liable for a share of the debt which England had incurred since the Revolution, a large sum of ready money was to be advanced to Scotland as an equivalent for that burden; which sum, however, was to be repaid to England gradually from the Scottish revenue. So far all went on pretty well between the two sets of commissioners. The English statesmen also consented, with no great scruple, that Scotland should retain her own national Presbyterian Church, her own system or civil and municipal laws, which is in many important respects totally different from that of England, and her own courts for the administration of justice. The only addition to her judicial establishment was the erection of the Court of Exchequer in Scotland, to decide in fiscal matters, and which follows the English forms. But the treaty was nearly broken off when the English announced, that, in the Parliament of the United Kingdoms, Scotland should only enjoy a representation equal to one thirteenth of the whole number. The proposal was received by the Scottish commissioners with a burst of surprise and indignation. It was loudly urged that a kingdom resigning her ancient independence, should at least obtain in the great national council a representation bearing the same proportion the population of Scotland did to that of England, which was one to six. If this rule, which seems the fairest that could be found, had been adopted, Scotland would have sent sixty-six members to the united Parliament. But the English refused peremptorily to consent to the admission of more than forty-five at the very utmost; and the Scottish commissioners were bluntly and decisively informed that they must either acquiesce in this proposal, or declare the treaty at an end. With more prudence, perhaps, than spirit, the majority of the commissioners chose to yield the point rather than run the risk of frustrating the Union entirely.
The Scottish Peerage were to preserve all the other privileges of their rank; but their right of sitting in Parliament, and acting as hereditary legislators, was to be greatly limited. Only sixteen of their number were to enjoy seats in the British House of Lords, and these were to be chosen by election from the whole body. Such peers as were amongst the number of commissioners were induced to consent to this degradation of their order, by the assurance that they themselves should be created British peers, so as to give them personally, by charter, the right which the sixteen could only acquire by election.
To smooth over the difficulties, and reconcile the Scottish Commissioners to the conditions which appeared hard to them, and above all, to afford them some compensation for the odium which they were certain to incur, they were given to understand that a considerable sum out of the equivalent money would be secured for their especial use. We might have compassionated these statesmen, many of whom were able and eminent men, had they, from the sincere conviction that Scotland was under the necessity of submitting to the Union at all events, accepted the terms which the English Commissioners dictated. But when they united with the degradation of their country, the prospect of obtaining personal wealth and private emoluments, we cannot acquit them of the charge of having sold their own honour and that of Scotland. This point of the treaty was kept strictly secret; nor was it fixed how the rest of the equivalent was to be disposed of. There remained a disposable fund of about three hundred and sixty thousand pounds, which was to be bestowed on Scotland in indemnification for the losses of Darien, and other gratuities, upon which all those members of the Scottish parliament who might be inclined to sell their votes, and whose interest was worth purchasing, might fix their hopes and expectations.
When the articles, agreed upon by the Commissioners as the basis of a Union, were made public in Scotland, it became plain that few suffrages would be obtained in favour of the measure, save by menaces or bribery, unless perhaps from a very few, who, casting their eyes far beyond the present time, considered the uniting of the island of Britain as an object which could not be purchased too dearly. The people in general had awaited, in a state of feverish anxiety, the nature of the propositions on which this great national treaty was to rest; but even those who had expected the least favourable terms, were not prepared for the rigour of the conditions which had been adopted, and the promulgation of the articles gave rise to the most general expressions, not only of discontent, but of rage and fury against the proposed Union. There was indeed no party or body of men in Scotland, who saw their hopes or wishes realized in the plan adopted by the Commissioners. I will show you, in a few words, their several causes of dissatisfaction: The Jacobites saw in the proposed Union, an effectual bar to the restoration of the Stewart family. If the treaty was adopted, the two kingdoms must necessarily be governed by the English act, settling the succession of the crown on the Electress of Hanover. They were therefore resolved to oppose the Union to the utmost. The Episcopal clergy could hardly be said to have had a separate interest from the Jacobites, and, like them, dreaded the change of succession which must take place at the death of Queen Anne. The Highland chiefs also, the most zealous and formidable portion of the Jacobite interest, anticipated in the Union a decay of their own patriarchal power. They remembered the times of Cromwell, who bridled the Highlands by garrisons filled with soldiers, and foresaw that when Scotland came to be only a part of the British nation, a large standing army, at the constant command of Government, must gradually suppress the warlike independence of the clans. The Presbyterians of the Church of Scotland, both clergy and laity, were violently opposed to the Union, from the natural apprehension, that so intimate an incorporation of two nations was likely to end in a uniformity of worship, and that the hierarchy of England would, in that case, be extended to the weaker and poorer country of Scotland, to the destruction of the present establishment. This fear seemed the better founded, as the Bishops, or Lords Spiritual of the English House of Lords, formed a considerable portion of what was proposed to be the legislature of both kingdoms; so that Scotland, in the event of the Union taking place, must, to a certain extent, fall under the dominion of prelates. These apprehensions extended to the Cameronians themselves, who, though having so many reasons to dread the restoration of the Stewarts, and to favour the Protestant succession, looked, nevertheless, on the proposed Union as almost a worse evil, and a still farther departure from the engagements of the Solemn League and Covenant, which, forgotten by all other parties in the nation, was still their professed rule of action. The nobility and barons of the kingdom were alarmed, lest they should be deprived, after the example of England, of those territorial jurisdictions and privileges which preserved their feudal influence; while, at the same time, the transference of the seat of government to London, must necessarily be accompanied with the abolition of many posts and places of honour and profit, connected with the administration of Scotland as a separate kingdom, and which were naturally bestowed on her nobility and gentry. The Government, therefore, must have so much less to give away, the men of influence so much less to receive; and those who might have expected to hold situations of power and authority in their own country while independent, were likely to lose by the Union both power and patronage. The persons who were interested in commerce complained, that Scotland was only tantalized by a treaty, which held out to the kingdom the prospect of a free trade, when, at the same time, it subjected them to all the English burdens and duties, raising the expenses of commerce to a height which Scotland afforded no capital to defray; so that the apprehension became general, that the Scottish merchants would lose the separate trade which they now possessed, without obtaining any beneficial share in that of England.
Again, the whole body of Scottish trades-people, artisans, and the like, particularly those of the metropolis, foresaw, that in consequence of the Union, a large proportion of the nobility and gentry would be withdrawn from their native country, some to attend their duties in the British Parliament, others from the various motives of ambition, pleasure, or vanity, which induce persons of comparative wealth to frequent courts, and reside in capitals. The consequences to be apprehended were, that the Scottish metropolis would be deserted by all that were wealthy and noble, and deprived at once of the consideration and advantages of a capital; and that the country must suffer in proportion, by the larger proprietors ceasing to reside on their estates, and going to spend their rents in England. These were evils apprehended by particular classes of men. But the loss and disgrace to be sustained by the ancient kingdom, which had so long defended her liberty and independence against England, were common to all her children; and should Scotland at this crisis voluntarily surrender her rank among nations, for no immediate advantages that could be anticipated, excepting such as might be obtained by private individuals, who had votes to sell, and consciences that permitted them to traffic in such ware, each inhabitant of Scotland must have his share in the apprehended dishonour. Perhaps, too, those felt it most, who, having no estates or wealth to lose, claimed yet a share, with the greatest and the richest, in the honour of their common country.
The feelings of national pride were inflamed by those of national prejudice and resentment. The Scottish people complained, that they were not only required to surrender their public rights, but to yield them up to the very nation who had been most malevolent to them in all respects; who had been their constant enemies during a thousand years of almost continual war; and who, even since they were united under the same crown, had shown, in the massacre of Glencoe, and the disasters of Darien, at what a slight price they held the lives and rights of their northern neighbours. The hostile measures adopted by the English Parliament, — their declarations against the Scottish trade, their preparations for war on the Border, — were all circumstances which envenomed the animosity of the people of Scotland; while the general training which had taken place under the Act of Security, made them confident in their own military strength, and disposed to stand their ground at all hazards.
Moved by anxiety, doubt, and apprehension, an unprecedented confluence of people, of every rank, sex, and age, thronged to Edinburgh from all corners of Scotland, to attend the meeting of the Union Parliament, which met 3d October, 1706. The Parliament was divided, generally speaking, into three parties. The first was composed of the courtiers or followers of Government determined at ail events to carry through the Union, on the terms proposed by the Commissioners. This party was led by the Duke of Queensberry, Lord High Commissioner, a person of talents and accomplishments, and great political address, who had filled the highest situations during the last reigns. He was assisted by the Earl of Mar, Secretary of State, who was suspected to be naturally much disposed to favour the exiled family of Stewart, but who, sacrificing his political principles to love of power or of emolument, was deeply concerned in the underhand and private management by which the Union was carrying through. But the most active agent in the treaty was the Viscount Stair, long left out of administration on account of his share in the scandalous massacre of Glencoe and the affair of Darien. He was raised to an earldom in 1703, and was highly trusted and employed by Lord Godolphin, and the English administration. This celebrated statesman, now trusted and employed, by his address, eloquence, and talents, contributed greatly to accomplish the Union, and gained on that account, from a great majority of his displeased countrymen, the popular nickname of the Curse of Scotland.
The party opposing the Union consisted of those who were attached to the Jacobite interest, joined with the country party, who, like Fletcher of Saltoun, resisted the treaty, not on the grounds of the succession to the crown, but as destructive of the national independence of the kingdom. They were headed by the Duke of Hamilton, the premier peer of Scotland, an excellent speaker, and admirably qualified to act as the head of a party in ordinary times, but possessed of such large estates as rendered him unwilling to take any decisive steps by which his property might be endangered. To this it seems to have been owing”, that the more decided and effectual measures, by which alone the Union treaty might have been defeated, though they often seemed to gain his approbation for a time, never had his hearty or effectual support in the end.
There was a third party, greatly smaller than either of the others, but which secured to themselves a degree of consequence by keeping together, and affecting to act independently of the rest, from which they were termed the Squadrone Volante. They were headed by the Marquis of Tweeddale, and consisted of the members of an administration of which the Marquis had been the head, but which were turned out of office to make way for the Duke of Queensberry and the present ruling party. These discontented politicians were neither favourers of the Court which had dismissed them, nor of the opposition party. To speak plainly, in a case where their country demanded of them a decisive opinion, the Squadrone seem to have waited to see what course of conduct would best serve their own interest. We shall presently see that they were at last decided to support the treaty by a reconciliation with the court. The unpopularity of the proposed measure throughout Scotland in general, was soon made evident by the temper of the people of Edinburgh. The citizens of the better class exclaimed against the favourers of the Union, as willing to surrender the sovereignty of Scotland to her. ancient rival, whilst the populace stated the same idea in a manner more obvious to their gross capacities, and cried out that the Scottish crown, sceptre, and sword, were about to be transferred to England, as they had been in the time of the usurper, Edward Longshanks.
On the 23d October, the popular fury was at its height. The people crowded together in the High Street and Parliament Square, and greeted their representatives as friends or enemies to their country, according as they opposed or favoured the Union. The Commissioner was bitterly reviled and hooted at, while, in the evening of the day, several hundred persons escorted the Duke of Hamilton to his lodgings, encouraging him by loud huzzas to stand by the cause of national independence. The rabble next assailed the house of the Lord Provost, destroyed the windows, and broke open the doors, and threatened him with instant death as a favourer of the obnoxious treaty. Other acts of riot were committed, which were not ultimately for the advantage of the Anti–Unionists, since they were assigned as reasons for introducing strong bodies of troops into the city. These mounted guard in the principal streets; and the Commissioner dared only pass to his coach through a lane of soldiers under arms, and was then driven to his lodgings in the Canongate amidst repeated volleys of stones and roars of execration. The Duke of Hamilton continued to have his escort of shouting apprentices, who attended him home every evening.
But the posting of the guards overawed opposition both within and without the Parliament; and, notwithstanding the remonstrances of the opposition party, that it was an encroachment both on the privileges of the city of Edinburgh and of the Parliament itself, the hall of meeting continued to be surrounded by a military force.
The temper of the kingdom of Scotland at large was equally unfavourable to the treaty of Union with that of the capital. Addresses against the measure were poured into the House of Parliament from the several shires, counties, burghs, towns, and parishes. Men, otherwise the most opposed to each other, Whig and Tory, Jacobite and Williamite, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and Cameronian, all agreed in expressing their detestation of the treaty, and imploring the Estates of Parliament to support and preserve entire the sovereignty and independence of the Crown and kingdom, with the rights and privileges of Parliament, valiantly maintained through so many ages, so that the succeeding generations might receive them unimpaired; in which good cause the petitioners offered to concur with life and fortune. While addresses of this description loaded the table of the Parliament, the promoters of the Union could only procure from a few persons in the town of Ayr a single address in favour of the measure, which was more than overbalanced by one of an opposite tendency, signed by a very large majority of the inhabitants of the same burgh.
The Unionists, secure in their triumphant majorities, treated these addresses with scorn. The Duke of Argyle said, they were only fit to be made kites of, while the Earl of Marchmont proposed to reject them as seditious, and, as he alleged, got up collusively, and expressing the sense of a party rather than of the nation. To this it was boldly answered by Sir James Foulis of Colington, that, if the authenticity of the addresses were challenged, he had no doubt that the parties subscribing would attend the right honourable House in person, and enforce their petitions by their presence. This was an alarming suggestion, and ended the debate. Amongst these addresses against the Union, there was one from the Commission of the General Assembly, which was supposed to speak the sentiments of most of the clergymen of the Church of Scotland, who saw great danger to the Presbyterian Church from the measure under deliberation. But much of the heat of the clergy’s opposition was taken off by the Parliament’s passing an act for the Security of the Church of Scotland as by law established at the Revolution, and making this declaration an integral part of the treaty of Union. This cautionary measure seems to have been deemed sufficient; and although some presbyteries sent addresses against the Union, and many ministers continued to preach violently on the subject, yet the great body of the clergy ceased to vex themselves and others with the alarming tendency of the measure, so far as religion and church discipline were concerned.
The Cameronians, however, remained unsatisfied, and not having forgotten the weight which their arms had produced at the time of the Revolution, they conceived that a similar crisis of public affairs had again arrived, and required their active interference. Being actually embodied and possessed of arms, they wanted nothing save hardy and daring leaders to have engaged them in actual hostilities. They were indeed so earnest in opposing the Union, that several hundreds of them appeared in formal array, marched into Dumfries, and, drawing up in military order around the cross of the town, solemnly burnt the articles of Union, and published a testimony, declaring that the Commissioners who adjusted them must have been either silly, ignorant, or treacherous, if not all three, and protesting, that if an attempt should be made to impose the treaty on the nation by force, the subscribers were determined that they and their companions would not become tributaries and bond slaves to their neighbours, without acquitting themselves as became men and Christians. After publishing this threatening manifesto the assembly dispersed.
This conduct of the Cameronians led to a formidable conspiracy. One Cunningham of Eckatt, a leading man of that sect at the time of the Revolution, afterwards a settler at Darien, offered his services to the heads of the opposition party, to lead to Edinburgh such an army of Cameronians as should disperse the Parliament, and break off the treaty of Union. He was rewarded with money and promises, and encouraged to collect the sense of the country on the subject of his proposal. This agent found the west country ripe for revolt, and ready to join with any others who might take arms against the Government on the footing of resistance to the treaty of Union. Cunningham required that a body of the Athole Highlanders should secure the town of Stirling, in order to keep the communication open between the Jacobite chiefs and the army of western insurgents, whom he himself was in the first instance to command. And had this design taken effect, the party which had suffered so much during the late reigns of the Stewarts, and the mountaineers, who had been found such ready agents in oppressing them, would have been seen united in a common cause, so strongly did the universal hatred to the Union overpower all other party feelings at this time. A day was named for the proposed insurrection in the west, on which Cunningham affirmed he would be able to assemble at Hamilton, which was assigned as the place of rendezvous, seven or eight thousand men, all having guns and swords, several hundred with muskets and bayonets, and about a thousand on horseback; with which army he proposed to march instantly to Edinburgh, and disperse the Parliament. The Highlanders were to rise at the same time; and there can be little doubt that the country in general would have taken arms. Their first efforts would probably have been successful, but the final event must have been a bloody renewal of the wars between England and Scotland.
The Scottish Government were aware of the danger, and employed among the Cameronians two or three agents of their own, particularly one Ker of Kersland, who possessed some hereditary influence among them. The persons so employed did not venture to cross the humour of the people, or argue in favour of the Union; but they endeavoured in various ways to turn the suspicion of the Cameronians upon the Jacobite nobility and gentry, to awaken hostile recollections of the persecutions they had undergone, in which the Highlanders had been willing actors, and to start other causes of jealousy amongst people who were more influenced by the humour of the moment than any reasoning which could be addressed to them. Notwithstanding the underhand practices of Kersland, and although Cunningham himself is said to have been gained over by the Government, the scheme of rising went forward, and the day of rendezvous was appointed; when the Duke of Hamilton, either reluctant to awaken the flames of civil war, or doubting the strength of Eckatt’s party, and its leader’s fidelity, sent messengers into the west country to countermand and postpone the intended insurrection ; in which he so far succeeded, that only four hundred men appeared at the rendezvous, instead of twice as many thousands; and these, finding their purpose frustrated, dispersed peaceably.
Another danger which threatened the Government passed as easily over. An address against the Union had been proposed at Glasgow, where, as in every place of importance in Scotland, the treaty was highly unpopular. The magistrates, acting under the directions of the Lord Advocate, endeavoured to obstruct the proposed petition, or at least to resist its being expressed in the name of the city. At this feverish time there was a national fast appointed to be held, and a popular preacher2 made choice of a text from Ezra, ch. viii. v. 21, “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us and for our little ones, and for all our substance.” Addressing himself to the people, who were already sufficiently irritated, the preacher told them that prayers would not do, addresses would not do-prayer was indeed a duty, but it must be seconded by exertions of a very different nature; “ wherefore,” he concluded, “up, and be valiant for the city of our God.” The populace of the city, taking this as a direct encouragement to insurrection, assembled in a state of uproar, attacked and dispersed the guards, plundered the houses of the citizens, and seized what arms they could find; in short, took possession of the town, and had every body’s life and goods at their mercy. No person of any consequence appeared at the Lead of these rioters; and after having put themselves under the command of a mechanic named Finlay, who had formerly been a sergeant, they sent small parties to the neighbouring towns to invite them to follow their example. In this they were unsuccessful; the proclamations of Parliament, and the adjournment of the rendezvous appointed by the Cameronians, having considerably checked the disposition to insurrection. In short, the Glasgow riot died away, and the insurgents prevented bloodshed by dispersing quietly; Finlay and another of their leaders were seized by a party of dragoons from Edinburgh, conveyed to that city, and lodged in the castle. And thus was extinguished a hasty fire, which might otherwise have occasioned a great conflagration. To prevent the repetition of such dangerous examples as the rendezvous at Hamilton and the tumults at Glasgow, the Parliament came to the resolution of suspending that clause of the Act of Security which appointed general military musters throughout Scotland; and enacted instead, that in consideration of the tumults which had taken place, all assembling in arms, without the Queen’s special order, should be punished as an act of high treason. This being made public by proclamation, put a stop to future attempts at rising.
The project of breaking off the treaty by violence being now wholly at an end, those who opposed the measure determined upon a more safe and moderate attempt to frustrate it. It was resolved, that as many of the nobility, barons, and gentry of the realm as were hostile to the Union, should assemble in Edinburgh, and join in a peaceful, but firm and personal remonstrance to the Lord Commissioner, praying that the obnoxious measure might be postponed until the subscribers should receive an answer to a national address which they designed to present to the Queen at this interesting crisis. It was supposed that the intended application to the Commissioner would be so strongly supported, that either the Scottish Government would not venture to favour a Union in the face of such general opposition, or that the English ministers themselves might take the alarm, and become doubtful of the efficacy or durability of a treaty, to which the bulk of Scotland seemed so totally averse. About four hundred nobles and gentlemen of the first distinction assembled in Edinburgh, for the purpose of attending the Commissioner with the proposed remonstrance; and an address was drawn up, praying her Majesty to withdraw her countenance from the treaty, and to call a new Parliament.
When the day was appointed for executing the intended plan, it was interrupted by the Duke of Hamilton, who would on no terms agree to proceed with it, unless a clause was inserted in the address expressive of the willingness of the subscribers to settle the succession on the House of Hanover. This proposal was totally at variance with the sentiments of the Jacobite part of those who supported the address, and occasioned great and animated discussions among them, and considerable delay. In the mean while, the Commissioner, observing the city unusually crowded with persons of condition, and obtaining information of the purpose for which so many gentlemen had repaired to the capital, made an application to Parliament, setting forth that a convocation had been held in Edinburgh of various persons, under pretence of requiring personal answers to their addresses to Parliament, which was likely to endanger the public peace ; and obtained a proclamation against any meetings under such pretexts during the sitting of Parliament, which he represented as both inexpedient and contrary to law.
While the Lord Commissioner was thus strengthening his party, the Anti–Unionists were at discord among themselves. The Dukes of Hamilton and Athole quarrelled on account of the interruption given by the former to the original plan of remonstrance; and the country gentlemen who had attended on their summons, returned home mortified, disappointed, and, as many of them thought, deceived by their leaders.
Time was mean while flying fast, and Parliament, in discussing the separate articles of the Union, had readied the twenty-second, being that designed to fix the amount of the representation which Scotland was to possess in the British Parliament, and, on account of the inadequacy of such representation, the most obnoxious of the whole. The Duke of Hamilton, who still was, or affected to be, firmly opposed to the treaty, now assembled the leaders of the opposition, and entreated them to forget all former errors and mismanagement, and to concur in one common effort for the independence of Scotland. He then proposed that the Marquis of Annandale should open their proceedings, by renewing a motion formerly made for the succession of the crown in the House of Hanover, which was sure to be rejected if coupled with any measure interrupting the treaty of Union. Upon this the Duke proposed, that all the opposers of the Union, after joining in a very strong protest, should publicly secede from the Parliament; in which case it was likely, either that the Government party would hesitate to proceed farther in a matter which was to effect such total changes in the constitution of Scotland, or that the English might become of opinion that they could not safely carry on a national treaty of such consequence with a mere faction, or party of the Parliament, when deserted by so many persons of weight and influence. The Jacobites objected to this course of proceeding, on account of the preliminary motion, which implied a disposition to call the House of Hanover to the succession, provided the Union were departed from by the Government. The Duke of Hamilton replied, that as the proposal was certain to be rejected, it would draw with it no obligation on those by whom it was made. He said, that such an offer would destroy the argument for forcing on the Union, which had so much weight in England, where it was believed that if the treaty did not take place, the kingdoms of England and Scotland would pass to different monarchs. He then declared frankly, that if the English should not discontinue pressing forward the Union after the formal protestation and secession which he proposed, he would join with the Jacobites for calling in the son of James II., and was willing to venture as far as any one for that measure.
It is difficult to suppose that the Duke of Hamilton was not serious in this proposal; and there seems to be little doubt that if the whole body opposing the Union had withdrawn in the manner proposed, the Commissioner would have given up the treaty, and prorogued the Parliament. But the Duke lost courage, on its being intimated to him, as the story goes, by the Lord High Commissioner, in a private interview, that his Grace would be held personally responsible, if the treaty of Union was interrupted by adoption of the advice which he had given, and that he should be made to suffer for it in his English property. Such at least is the general report; and such an interview could be managed without difficulty, as both these distinguished persons were lodged in the Palace of Holyrood.
Whether acting from natural instability, whether intimidated by the threats of Queensberry, or dreading to encounter the difficulties when at hand, which he had despised when at a distance, it is certain that Hamilton was the first to abandon the course which he had himself recommended. On the morning appointed for the execution of their plan, when the members of opposition had mustered all their forces, and were about to go to Parliament, attended by great numbers of gentlemen and citizens, prepared to assist them if there should be an attempt to arrest any of their number, they learned that the Duke of Hamilton was so much afflicted with the toothache, that he could not attend the House that morning. His friends hastened to his chambers, and remonstrated with him so bitterly on this conduct, that he at length came down to the House; but it was only to astonish them by asking whom they had pitched upon to present their protestation. They answered, with extreme surprise, that they had reckoned on his Grace, as the person of the first rank in Scotland, taking the lead in the measure which he had himself proposed. The Duke persisted, however, in refusing to expose himself to the displeasure of the court by being foremost in defeating their favourite measure, but offered to second any one whom the party might appoint to offer the protest. During this altercation the business of the day was so far advanced, that the vote was put and carried on the disputed article respecting the representation, and the opportunity of carrying the scheme into effect was totally lost.
The members who had hitherto opposed the Union, being thus three times disappointed in their measures by the unexpected conduct of the Duke of Hamilton, now felt themselves deserted and betrayed. Shortly afterwards, most of them retired altogether from their attendance on Parliament; and those who favoured the treaty were suffered to proceed in their own way, little encumbered either by remonstrance or opposition. Almost the only remarkable change in the articles of the Union, besides that relating to Church government, was made to quiet the minds of the common people, disturbed, as I have already mentioned, by rumours that the Scottish regalia were to be sent into England. A special article was inserted into the treaty, declaring that they should on no occasion be removed from Scotland. At the same time, lest the sight of these symbols of national sovereignty should irritate the jealous feelings of the Scottish people, they were removed from the public view, and secured in a strong chamber, called the Crown-room, in the Castle of Edinburgh, where they remained so long in obscurity, that their very existence was generally doubted. But his present Majesty [K. George I V.] having directed that a commission should be issued to search after these venerable relics, they were found in safety in the place where they had been deposited, and are now made visible to the public under proper precautions.
It had been expected that the treaty of Union would have met with delays or alterations in the English Parliament. But it was approved of there, after very little debate by a large majority; and the exemplification or copy was sent down to be registered by the Scottish Parliament. This was done on the 25th March; and on the 22d April, the Parliament of Scotland adjourned for ever. Seafield, the Chancellor, on an occasion which every Scotsman ought to have considered as a melancholy one, behaved himself with a brutal levity, which in more patriotic times would have cost him his life on the spot, and said that “ there was an end of an auld sang.”
On the 1st of May, 1707, the Union took place, amid the dejection and despair which attend on the downfall of an ancient state, and under a sullen expression of discontent, that was far from promising the course of prosperity which the treaty finally produced.
And here I must point out to you at some length, that, though there never could be a doubt that the Union in itself was a most desirable event, yet by the erroneous mode in which it was pushed on and opposed by all parties concerned, such obstacles were thrown in the way of the benefits it was calculated to produce, as to interpose a longer interval of years betwixt the date of the treaty and the national advantages arising out of it, than the term spent by the Jews in the wilderness ere they attained the promised land. In both cases the frowardness and passions of men rejected the blessings which Providence held out to them. To understand this, you must know, that while the various plans for interrupting the treaty were agitated without doors, the debates in Parliament were of the most violent kind. “ It resembled,” said an eyewitness, “ not the strife of tongues, but the clash of arms; and the hatred, rage, and reproach which we exhausted on each other, seemed to be those of civil war rather than of political discussion.” Much talent was displayed on both sides. The promoters of the Union founded their arguments not merely on the advantage, but the absolute necessity, of associating the independence of the two nations for their mutual honour and defence; arguing, that otherwise they must renew the scenes of past ages, rendered dreadful by the recollection of three hundred and fourteen battles fought between two kindred nations, and more than a million of men slain on both sides. The imaginary sacrifice of independent sovereignty, was represented as being in reality an escape from the petty tyranny of their own provincial aristocracy, and a most desirable opportunity of having the ill-defined, and worse administered, government of Scotland, blended with that of a nation, the most jealous of her rights and liberties which the world ever saw.
While the Unionists pointed out the general utility of the amalgamation of the two nations into one, the opposition dwelt on the immediate disgrace and degradation which the measure must instantly and certainly impose on Scotland, and the distant and doubtful nature of the advantages which she was to derive from it.
Lord Belhaven, in a celebrated speech, which made the strongest impression on the audience, declared that he saw, in prophetic vision, the peers of Scotland, whose ancestors had raised tribute in England, now walking in the Court of Requests like so many English attorneys, laying aside their swords lest self-defence should be called murder; he saw the Scottish barons with their lips pad-locked, to avoid the penalties of unknown laws; he saw the Scottish lawyers struck mute and confounded at being” subjected to the intricacies and technical jargon of an unknown jurisprudence; he saw the merchants excluded from trade by the English monopolies-the artizans ruined fur want of custom-the gentry reduced to indigence-the lower ranks to starvation and beggary. “But above all, my lord,” continued the orator, “I think I see our ancient mother Caledonia, like Caesar, sitting in the midst of our senate, ruefully looking round her, covering herself with her royal mantle, awaiting the fatal blow, and breathing out her last with the exclamation, ‘ And thou too, my son!’” These prophetic sounds made the deepest impression on the House, until the effect was in some degree dispelled by Lord Marchmount, who, rising to reply, said, he too had been much struck by the noble lord’s vision, but that he conceived the exposition of it might be given in a few words. “ I awoke, and behold it was a dream.” But though Lord Belhaven’s prophetic harangue might be termed in one sense a vision, it was one which continued to exist for many years; nor was it until half a century had passed away, that the Union began to produce those advantages to Scotland which its promoters had fondly hoped, and the fruits of which the present generation has so fully reaped. We must seek in the temper of the various parties interested in carrying on and concluding this great treaty, the reasons which for so many years prevented the incalculable benefits which it was expected to bestow, and which have been since realized.
The first, and perhaps most fatal error, arose out of the conduct and feelings of the English, who were generally incensed at the conduct of the Scots respecting the Act of Security, and in the precipitate execution of Green and his companions, whom their countrymen, with some reason, regarded as men murdered on a vague accusation, merely because they were Englishmen. This, indeed, was partly true; but though the Scots acted cruelly, it should have been considered that they had received much provocation, and were in fact only revenging, though rashly and unjustly, the injuries of Darien and Glencoe. But the times were unfavourable to a temperate view of the subject in either country. The cry was general throughout England, that Scotland should be conquered by force of arms, and secured by garrisons and forts, as in the days of Cromwell. Or, if she was to be admitted to a Union, there was a general desire on the part of the English to compel her to receive terms as indifferent as could be forced upon an inferior and humbled people.
These were not the sentiments of a profound statesman, and could not be those of Godolphin He must have known that the mere fact of accomplishing a treaty could no more produce the cordial and intimate state of unity which was the point he aimed at, than the putting a pair of quarrelsome hounds into the same couples could reconcile the animals to each other. It may, therefore, be supposed, that, left to himself, so great a politician would have tried, by the most gentle means, to reconcile Scotland to the projected measure; that he would have been studious to efface every thing that appeared humiliating in the surrender of national independence; would have laboured to smooth those difficulties which prevented the Scots from engaging in the English trade; and have allowed her a more adequate representation in the national Parliament, which, if arranged according to her proportion of public expenses, would only have made the inconsiderable addition of fifteen members to the House of Commons. In fine, the English minister would probably have endeavoured to arrange the treaty on such terms of advantage for the poorer country, as should, upon its being adopted, immediately prove to the Scots, by its effects, that it was a measure they ought for their own sakes to have desired and concurred in. In this manner, the work of many years would have been, to a certain degree, anticipated, and the two nations would have felt themselves united in interest and in affection also, soon after they had become nominally one people. Whatever England might have sacrificed in this way, would have been gained by Great Britain, of which England must necessarily be the predominant part, and as such must always receive the greatest share of benefit by whatever promotes the good of the whole. But though Godolphin’s wisdom might have carried him to such conclusions, the passions and prejudices of the English nation would not have permitted him to act upon them. They saw, or thought they saw, a mode of bringing under subjection, a nation which had been an old enemy and a troublesome friend, and they, very impolitically, were more desirous to subdue Scotland than to reconcile her. In this point the English statesmen committed a gross error, though rendered perhaps inevitable, by the temper and prejudices of the nation.
The Scottish supporters of the Union might, on their part, have made a stand for better terms on behalf of their country. And it can scarcely be supposed that the English would have broken off a treaty of such importance, either for the addition of a few members, or for such advantages of commerce as Scotland might reasonably have demanded. But these Scottish commissioners, or a large part of them, had, unhappily, negotiated so well for themselves, that they had lost all right of interfering on the part of their country. We have already explained the nature of the equivalent, by which a sum of four hundred thousand pounds, or thereabouts, advanced at this time by England, but to be repaid out of the Scottish revenue within fifteen years, was to be distributed in the country, partly to repay the losses sustained by the Darien Company, partly to pay arrears of public salaries in Scotland, most of which were due to members of the Scottish Parliament; and finally, to satisfy such claims of damage arising out of the Union, as might be brought forward by any one whose support was worth having.
The distribution of this money constituted the charm by which refractory Scottish members were reconciled to the Union. I have already mentioned the sum of thirty thousand pounds, which was peculiarly apportioned to the commissioners who originally laid the basis of the treaty. I may add there was another sum of twenty thousand pounds, employed to secure to the measures of the court the party called the Squadrone Volante. The account of the mode in which this last sum was distributed has been published; and it may be doubted whether the descendants of the noble lords and honourable gentlemen who accepted this gratification, would be more shocked at the general fact of their ancestors being corrupted, or scandalized at the paltry amount of the bribe.1 One noble lord accepted of so low a sum as eleven guineas; and the bargain was the more hard, as he threw his religion into the bargain, and from Catholic turned Protestant, to make his vote a good one. Other disgraceful gratuities might be mentioned, and there were many more which cannot be traced. The treasure for making good the equivalent was sent down in waggons from England, to be deposited in the castle of Edinburgh; and never surely was so valuable an importation received with such marks of popular indignation. The dragoons who guarded the wains were loaded with execrations, and the carters, nay, even their poor horses, were nearly pelted to death, for being accessary in bringing to Edinburgh the price of the independence of the kingdom.
The public indignation was the more just, that this large sum of money in fact belonged to the Scottish nation, being the compensation to be paid to them, for undertaking to pledge their revenue for a part of the English national debt. So that, in fact, the Parliament of Scotland was bribed with the public money belonging to their own country. In this way, Scotland herself was made to pay the price given to her legislators for the sacrifice of her independence.
The statesmen who accepted of these gratuities, under whatever name disguised, were marked by the hatred of the country, and did not escape reproach even in the bosom of their own families. The advantage of their public services was lost by the general contempt which they had personally incurred. And here I may mention, that while carrying on the intrigues which preceded the passing of the Union, those who favoured that measure were obliged to hold their meetings in secret and remote places of rendezvous, lest they should have been assaulted by the rabble. There is a subterranean apartment in the High Street (No. 177), called the Union–Cellar,’ from its being one of their haunts; and the pavilion in the gardens belonging to the Earl of Murray’s Hotel in the Canongate (No. 172), is distinguished by tradition, as having been used for this purpose.
Men, of whom a majority had thus been bought and sold, forfeited every right to interfere in the terms which England insisted upon; and Scotland, therefore, lost that support, which, had these statesmen been as upright and respectable as some of them were able and intelligent, could not have failed to be efficacious. But, despised by the English, and detested by their own country, fettered, as Lord Belhaven expressed it, by the golden chain of equivalents, the Unionists had lost all freedom of remonstrance, and had no alternative left, save that of fulfilling the unworthy bargain they had made. The Opposition party also had their share of error on this occasion. If they had employed a part of that zeal with which they vindicated the shadowy rights of Scotland’s independence (which after all, resolved itself into the title of being governed like a province, by a viceroy, and by English influence, not the less predominant that it was indirect), in order to obtain some improvement in the more unfavourable clauses of the treaty; if, in other words, they had tried to make a more advantageous agreement when the Union was under discussion, instead of attempting to break it off entirely, they might perhaps have gained considerable advantages fur Scotland. But the greater part of the anti-Unionists were also Jacobites; and therefore, far from desiring to render the treaty more unexceptionable, it was their object that it should be as odious to the people of Scotland as possible, in order that the universal discontent excited by it might turn to the advantage of the exiled family. Owing to all these adverse circumstances, the interests of Scotland were considerably neglected in the treaty of Union; and in consequence the nation, instead of regarding it as an identification of the interests of both kingdoms, considered it as a total surrender of their independence, by their false and corrupted statesmen, into the hand of their proud and powerful rival. The gentry of Scotland looked on themselves as robbed of their natural consequence, and disgraced in the eyes of the country; the merchants and tradesmen lost the direct commerce between Scotland and foreign countries, without being, for a length of time, able to procure a share in a more profitable trade with the English colonies, although ostensibly laid open to them. The populace in the towns, and the peasants throughout the kingdom, conceived the most implacable dislike to the treaty; factions, hitherto most bitterly opposed to each other, seemed ready to rise on the first opportunity which might occur for breaking it; and the cause of the Stewart family gained a host of new adherents, more from dislike to the Union than any partiality to the exiled prince.
A long train of dangers and difficulties was the consequence, which tore Scotland to pieces with civil discord, and exposed England also to much suffering. Three rebellions, two of which assumed a very alarming character, may, in a great measure, be set down to the unpopularity of this great national act; and the words, “ Prosperity to Scotland, and no Union,” is the favourite inscription to be found on Scottish sword-blades, betwixt 1707 and 1746.
But although the passions and prejudices of mankind could for a time delay and interrupt the advantages to be derived from this most important national measure, it was not the gracious will of Providence that, being thus deferred, they should be ultimately lost.
The unfortunate insurrection of 1745–6 entirely destroyed the hopes of the Scottish Jacobites, and occasioned the abolition of the hereditary jurisdictions and military tenures, which had been at once dangerous to the Government, and a great source of oppression to the subject. This, though attended with much individual suffering, was the final means of at once removing the badges of feudal tyranny, extinguishing civil war, and assimilating Scotland to the sister-country. After this period, the advantages of the Union were gradually perceived and fully experienced.
It was not, however, till the accession of his late Majesty, that the beneficial effects of this great National treaty were generally felt and recognised. From that period there was awakened a spirit of Industry formerly unknown in Scotland; and ever Since, the two kingdoms of England and Scotland, Incalculably to their mutual benefit, have been Uniting cordially, as one people, in the improvement And defence of the island which they inhabit.
The happy change from discord to friendship, — From war to peace, and from poverty and distress To national prosperity, was not attained without Much peril and hazard; and should I continue these Volumes, from the period of the Union to that of the Accession of George the Third, I can promise you, The addition will be neither the least interesting Nor the least useful, of your Grandfather’s labours In your behalf.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:54