Transcript for HoS 78

Last time we ended on something of a low point. This episode is not necessarily going to be any simpler and easier, but look – history is not here for our fun and amusement is it now? It is here to be poured over with furrowed brow, for meaning and insight into the way the world works and how people of the past have sought to do their best. Is it? Not sure actually – maybe send me some suggestions with the heading What is History for.

However, if I can’t offer easier and simpler what I can offer you, in addition to the blood, sweat, toil and tears that is the essence of gumbleeding history, is BIG Stuff. Capital B capital S. Stuff doesn’t come bigger than this episode, gentle listeners. The title of this episode is Union, we have a lot of ground to cover, but I thought despite the fact that this episode is over an hour long, that we should unpeel the onion that is the Union in one go rather than breaking it up, it feels right to keep it together, entire of itself. So, pour yourself a drink, get the slippers on, or running shoes or whatevers, and let’s do this thing. You and I. In Union.

First up, Because I am going to talk about the economy, and in general that’s going to be a bit difficult, not very happy, but we can start with some positive news. Although it was once thought that Scotland’s economy at the time was backward and inefficient, that story has been amended. This is something which happens frequently in history – though it can be annoying when you want to use your notes from A level 40 years ago to help write a podcast. Historians. Tsk. Though can I just say that the lovely thing about reaching 1700 is that I am now joined by Professor Tom Devine, who is a rollicking good historian and writer. I currently have his books ‘The Scottish Nation’ 1700 – 2017 on my desk, and his book on the Scottish clearances. I can recommend both.

Anyway, what was I saying? Oh yes – inefficient and backwards. Well, there has been some modification to the story, because it’s become clear that there were some green shoots around. Scottish farming was becoming more commercialised; there’s still very widespread use of rent in kind, especially in the Highlands, but cash is becoming more and more prevalent. Attitudes of landowners towards land had changed. Once upon a time, land and the people on it was the route to military power and authority. More and more, estates were becoming seen as assets from which revenue and profits could be extracted – and maximised. Is this a positive thing? I mean it’s a thing that leads to greater personal wealth, independence, industrialisation medicine and all that but equally many negatives about the modern world; and also maybe the Clearanaces. Let’s just park that one for later though – eh? Their houses reflected this – when new builds went up, gone were the Tower houses built around defence, now elegance and liveability were prime.

Now look, this is very much a two edged sword; if you have been following the History of England podcast – available free on all good podcatchers – you will be aware of the long history since the 15th century of growing commercialisation and enclosure; along with the almost ubiquitous enclosure riots, which at some points flare up into full scale rebellion. That is the negative side. The positive side was that England could feed itself – the last famine where people died from hunger was in 1623 and that was restricted to the North West. France would have  national famines with death from malnutrition all the way through the 18th century. In Scotland, the picture in the 16th century had been harsh – in the second half of the century, there were 24 years of dearth. In the second half of the 17th century on the other hand, the picture was completely different. Before 1695, only one year, 1674, had seen problems. Scotland had become a grain exporting country, and used to the idea of plenty and reliability. In the highlands, there were similar trends towards commercialsation and money rents, particularly in the growing cattle trade.

We’ve talked a lot about political instability, but while all of that was going on, Scotland’s political leaders had made constant efforts to improve the national economy, with laws encouraging colonial trade, and domestic manufacturing; economic freedom was promoted, monopoly rights of royal burghs were removed, the Bank of Scotland was founded in 1695 under the aegis of an Englishman called John Holland; which is ironic, given that one of the founders of the bank of England was a Scot – of which more later. Interestingly, Scotland was very much part of the same European-wide Economic movements; the bank was based on a Dutch model, and like other nations the Scots made attempts to establish Scottish colonies, in New Jersey and South Carolina – the attempt in South Carolina was wiped out by the Spanish in 1684. And we talked last time about the policies of mercantilism, economic and trade war erecting high tariffs for international imports to protect local industry. Scotland took part in that too, with protectionist legislation in 1681, ‘for encouraging trade and Manufactures’[1].

So – the economic chaos of the late 1690s and early 17-noughties hit Scotland hard; they came a a bit of a shock, and became known as the ‘ Seven ill years’ – predictably, so named after the biblical famine predicted by Joseph in Egpyt. The main reason for this was climate. The harvest was bad in 1695; in the following year, 1696 it was catastrophic, especially in grain growing south; 1697 was also poor, and in 1698 it was again catastrophic. It would not be until early in the next decade that things started to improve, and many landowners would be paying off debt for rent arrears from this period well into the 18th century, even in better-off areas. Grain merchants tried to import instead of Export, but there was a general failure on the continent also so it was hard. The impact was terrible; it might be that 5% of people died from starvation; that’s a lot of people; in Aberdeenshire it was estimated that 20% died which is an horrific thought. The same problems were felt throughout northern Europe and southern Europe too – it’s estimated there were 2 million deaths in France and Italy.

Overall it’s thought that the population of Scotland as a whole fell by 15% – which is enormous. But not all of that of course was dearth; part of it was the traditional process in Scotland of emigrating, a longstanding part of Scotland’s population profile. Emigration was anyway high; this is the period when Ulster effectively becomes a Scottish colony, with an estimated 60,000 or more emigrating to Ulster after 1650. In total, emigration in the period may have been as high as 130,000 to Ulster, the Americas and the continent, to settle or to fight. The impact socially and politically was also much higher, because it had been so long since this sort of thing had occurred, and there was much more reporting, analysis and awareness of the problem.

However there was a very strong political and diplomatic angle to all of this, which made the Regal Union with England during William’s reign in particular even more unpopular. There’s no getting around it; for British kings with a healthy interest in expanding their borders, taking part in the great game, and engaging in economic war to expand the wealth of their patrimony, England was much more important than Scotland. It was way bigger and wealthier. And so foreign policy paid little attention to Scotland’s own needs. We have already seen this; so under Cromwell and Charles three Anglo Dutch wars had hit key markets for Scottish traders hard; and the English Navigation Acts affected Scotland just like any other nation – any trade into England from the colonies was to be carried by English ships – not Scottish. And now, as I explained last time, we have a Dutch king whose runaway priority was protecting his homeland from French aggression. So there were embargos on French trade; that hit his English traders too of course, but the Scots weren’t so convinced they shared their king’s priorities, and saw instead the impact on trade, and wondered if a Stuart king would have done the same thing. I mean if they looked at Charles’ reign they might well have realised it wouldn’t have made on iota of net difference, but hey, they were suffering. Basically, since the Revolution on 1688, things seemed to have gone very wrong in many ways.

Into this world came William Paterson, trailing dreams. He’s something of a wild figure, born in Dumfriesshire, which he left at the age of 17 to make his fortune, and make his fortune he did, via Bristol to the West Indies and making his fortune trading with Buccaneers. He’s the sort of person my father warned me about; he might make you a fortune, or he might lose you a fortune. He arrived back in London and made another fortune through the trade in enslaved people and the Merchant Taylor’s company, and he had two schemes he hawked around London. One of them was to establish a Bank of England on the Dutch model – which was duly done in 1694 as afore mentioned.

The other one was to found a colony in Panama. It was to be based on the Gulf of Darien, and the idea was to provide a route for traffic from the Atlantic to the Pacific. In two hundred years’ time that would be a flyer. But for the moment people were sceptical. From the late 1680’s, William tramped the boards and corridors trying to sell his scheme and get funding. Now I’ve been a rep, of books rather than vast colonisation projects it’s true but look, even books on the design and performance of road pavements contain dreams, and so I feel the universal fellowships of the much derided and distrusted profession of selling. From Del boy on Peckham market to book reps to William Paterson, we are brothers and sisters, doing well by doing good, like the old dope pedlar, and Benjamin Franklin. Anyway he went to James II, but James wouldn’t give him so much as the rough end of a pineapple. So he went to the HRE, and the to the Dutch – still not so much as the inedible components of tropical fruit, nor yet a sausage.

But finally, in Scotland, he found an audience. I am not sure exactly why to be honest, why it failed elsewhere and not Scotland; maybe possibly perhaps it was because those other nations had successful colonial ventures already, and didn’t like the risks, which were without doubt pretty high. Maybe it’s because Scotland was desperate to begin to get its piece of the colonial pie; a chance to escape the economic pain already being felt; or maybe they saw the potential that would lead to that canal 200 years later.

Either way, Scotland went for it, big time; a Company of Scotland was formed to raise the capital. Welcome to the world of mercantilism; English traders saw a competitor in the making and wanted none of it. The world of commerce was viciously competitive; I note that the Bank of England almost failed in England because the Royal Africa Company formed it’s own bank to try and own that business and take it down, just as one example. This was the world the new Darien Company was entering. It has some initial success in raising money in Amsterdam – at which point the East India Company brought legal actions to prevent them, and Dutch funding was withdrawn.




And so it was purely funded by Scots, and the investment was enormous; it is estimated that Scotland sunk 20-25% of its entire liquid assets into the scheme; nobles like the Duke of Queensberry, financiers, merchants, lairds. Our friend the Earl of Arran and his Mum invested heavily in the scheme too; Arran’s father had died, but I’m not sure he’s officially Duke of Hamilton until 1698 since the titled resided in his Mum, but for ease later, let us now call him Hamilton, since it’s easier for narrative purposes. Hamilton would support the project, and the proposed schemes; such as in a rather brutal example of Scottish colonialism, the proposal that enslaved Africans be imported and, I quote, ‘worked to death’ in the gold mines.

Finally the money was in place, and in 1698 5 ships and 1200 people left harbour to bring a new world of wealth to the Scots. The first expedition was a disaster; 80% of the colonists died of disease; they had little food and found they could produce none.

At which point their king, William got involved. The Company of Scotland wanted to get resupply from the Dutch and English Caribbean colonies; but the Dutch and William had greater priorities in mind; Spain were of course wildly antagonistic, and claimed the area, and wanted no competition either. And they were part of the grand alliance against France along with England and the Dutch. And so English and Dutch colonies were ordered not to re-supply. Now that was an outrage for William’s Scottish subjects.

So by the time a ship arrived from Scotland, the colony was gone, the survivors had fled. The resupply ship burned by accident as well by the way. In 1699 they tried again; the second attempt suffered from apathy and poor leadership; and then from the wrath of the Spanish. In 1700 the Spanish attacked the fort, and the venture was put to an end; of the 2,500 colonists of the second venture, just a few hundred returned. In a codicil, the Company tried to recoup some losses with its last two ships; the two ships were taken by a pair of Drummonds; who swapped their goods for the enslaved instead of gold as had been the plan, and managed to lose the ships in a shady deal with some pirates. At which they decided the best course of action was not to come home, probably a good decision, and they disappeared from the pages of history.

This had been a national effort and this was as a result a national disaster. Coming on top of the seven ill years, writers predicted an economic Armageddon; with hindsight, it’s possible to realise that the 1690s and Darrien were but a blip in an improving economy, but in 1700 most Scots thought they were poor, and about to get poorer. The reasons for failure are legion – it was risky from the start, the planning failed to take account of those risks and design contingencies into the scheme; it seems to me that there were many of these disasters in the colonial history of the 17th and 16th centuries, including some Scottish ones – but this was Scotland’s biggest attempt. But of course the project had also failed in the face of mercantilism and English competition. And worst of all their own – King had failed completely to back them up, and supported their enemies instead. It would take a saint not to be furious.

And the Scots were indeed furious. As far as they were concerned the blame for the failure of Darien was to be laid at the feet of the English, a point the Duke of Hamilton was not slow to make in parliament in 1700 when he first sat. The early 17 noughties were a time of very strong anglophobia in Scotland; in 1705 it even led to the death of the crew of an English ship, the Worcester, who were seized, falsely accused of piracy and executed in front of 80,000 people. The very idea of union in 1702 and 1705 was apparently an absurdity.

To start the story of how the unthinkable came to be thunked and in fact dunked in the tea of history we should probably go back to 1701. William III was jolly poorly; and his heir, Anne no longer had any children. So, as politicians used to do, the English parliament thought ahead and passed the Act of Settlement. This Act followed up the Bill of Rights by specifically settling the crown on the first available protestant claimant, Princess Sophia of Hanover or her heirs, if Anne did not produce an heir.

Now the Act applied only to the monarch of England, but it was unsurprising that the Scots were frankly more than a little miffed. In fact they were incensed. There were references to Scotland in the act, and look, they shared a monarch, wouldn’t it have been nice to at least have a chat about it? In the context of the fractious Anglo Scottish relationship, if you were looking for a diplomatic way to describe the act, you might possibly stretch to ‘unhelpful’. There would be many other words. William clung on a bit, maybe hoping France would spontaneously combust before he went, but finally croaked in March 1702.

And Anne came to the throne. Anne is a monarch much under appreciated I think, very hardworking and conscientious if possibly falling into the worthy but dull category politically. She was also a genuine Stuart of course and therefore somewhat more acceptable to the Scots; and also a genuine believer in Union. She started discussions about union straight away – which went basically nowhere. Frankly the English parliament wasn’t interested, and the offer they made seemed to the Scots like a takeover rather than a Union. So it broke down.

Now, elections were held in 1703, because that’s what you do when one monarch dies and the mantle of royalty passes to the next in line. And the Scottish electorate were proper steaming by this stage I can tell you – the milk of human kindness was lying in a gutter shivering like Voldemort’s soul. I might note, by the way, that the electorate of Scotland at this time, pre-union, numbered precisely 2,600 people. But anyway, they were steaming, and reflected that the non-voting population, the communities they represented, were also steaming. The normal composition of the house would be broadly between two groups; Court and Country. Usually the court party was dominant. But in 1703, everything was thrown up in the air, the playing card equivalent of 52 card pick up.

Managing the parliament as Queen’s Commissioner was the job of the Duke of Queensberry, and usually he earned his pay relatively easily. But in 1703 everything was different. Court candidates were widely rejected, and Queensberry lost his majority. Facing him, the opposition were also not just more numerous but split into a variety of groups; a Country party under Duke of Hamilton; a so-called New party, as it’s leading member the Earl of Tweeddale called it. And now a significant group of what might be described as Jacobites, calling themselves the Cavaliers. Then the smallest group were the Revolution men – those who held close to the ideas and tradition of the Presbyterian revolution. So; 5 factions – Court [arty, Country, the New Party, Cavaliers, and revolution men. To – cut a long story short, Queensberry and Queen Anne lost control of parliament, and parliament was determined to make a point to the English parliament – and to their Queen.





They did this by passing a series of Acts which looked aggressively nationalist and anti English. A list follows:

Firstly I give you the Act of Security. This was tit to England’s Act of Settlement’s tat.  It said Scotland would chose her own monarch, and it might not be Hanover – unless Scotland is given free trade with England, access to England’s colonies, and has guaranteed its

Power of parliament, religion, and liberty

Next an Act anent Trade and War; this one reserved the right for Scotland to declare war or peace independently of England. Third and fourth were part of the trade war  – a Wine Act formally declaring Scotland’s right to trade with France – breaking England’s mercantilist policies against a nation at whom she was at war; and finally the Wool Act banning wool imports  – including English wool of course.

Together, these four acts were a clear defiance of the court party and royal authority. They were a declaration of autonomy and a manifesto for the terms of any union. It appeared to Anne that Scotland was ungovernable.

There was sense of crisis at Anne’s court. Louis XIV of course loved it; he actively supported the exiled James Stuart’s right to the throne, and recognised him as the rightful holder of the thrones of both England and Wales, and Scotland. Louis’ move clearly and explicitly place the relationship between England and Scotland in the context of European war; and that Scotland could  be a threat to England’s security. Together all of this changed attitudes in the English parliament; from being uninterested or actively hostile to the idea of Union, the idea of a Union it began to be seen as the only way in which the security of England’s northern border could be secured.

The response though was to escalate the tit for tat war; just as the Scottish Act of Security was a tit in response to the English Act of Settlement’s tat, so the English Aliens Act in February 1705 was a further tit in response of the Act of Security from the Scots. Let’s lose the tit for tat thing now. The Aliens act specified that Scottish citizens and businesses would be treated as aliens, and therefore subject to English embargos on trade and customs duties. Now this was nuclear. Scotland’s economy as previously mentioned had been growing in sophistication despite the troubles of the 90s; but 40% of that trade now went to England, with which Scotland was increasingly integrated in trade with products like Cattle, Linen, brewing, Paper manufacture and woollens. Being treated as just another object of England’s mercantilist war with France would have a terrible impact on Scottish trade.

It is worth noting that the Scots objected furiously, and by December the Alien Act had been repealed. But look, this is awkward. It does not sound like a traditional love affair. Two countries at loggerheads – one seemingly threatening trade war, the other participating in said trade war and at the same time presenting the threat of a back door for French invasion of England. Viewed at this point in time, a Union between Scotland and England would look like a shot so long that it was over the hills, through the forest, along a couple of streams and hidden in the deepest cave of Argh.

But it in fact the spat over the Succession made Union more likely. It brought the English parliament to the negotiating table; in the view of the Queen and Godolphin, her leading minister in England, Union was now the only safe route to security on England’s northern border; they now wanted a deal, and recognised how vital it was to their interest.

The warning shots from the Scottish parliament meanwhile were not a rejection of the idea of Union. What they were, or seemed to be, is a reminder that Scotland demanded a conversation of equals, that she had her own distinctive laws, religion and education system and that must be respected a reflected in any agreement.

Should the English choose to play and heed the challenge, there were in practice plenty of factors strongly pushing both Scots and English towards union. As we’ve heard, for the English it was a matter of national security; and now they were willing to pay the price, or at least a price. For the Scots; there seemed a choice between economic growth as part of the largest free trade area in Europe; or being cast adrift alone into a sea of international trade, surrounded by the sharks of mercantilism, all of whom were bigger and more powerful than them. Under Union they would get access to English colonies, and their traders would have the protection of the English Royal Navy.

There’s some other context which I think is important too. Union had been mooted ever since James VI became king of both crowns in 1603. It had foundered, but in one respect James had been successful – in building relationships between English and Scottish elites. Just for example, our Duke of Hamilton had married an Englishwoman, Elizabeth Gerard, who had brought him substantial estates in the south. The Duke of Argyll, to whom I will introduce you in a moment, was born in Petersham near London, and had fought for Marlborough on the continent in the English army. Many of the Scottish elite were thoroughly British already, with a British outlook and British horizons.

And of course in other ways the English and Lowland Scots in particular, despite a history of border conflicts and the burning resentment of Darrien, shared cultural similarities. English and Scots languages were cognate, each could understand the other; they were protestant and both feared subjection to a foreign Catholic power – albeit their brand of Protestantism was different. Most importantly maybe, as discussed, their economies were increasingly integrated.





Anyway, back to the story. Step forward and take a bow, John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll. Queensberry had failed to control parliament, fallen foul of a scandal and for the moment was not the man to bring the Scottish parliament to the table of Union. In desperation, Queen Anne turned to Argyll. Just 25 years old in 1705, Argyll had the utter confidence and authority of a king – which in a sense in parts of the highlands, he was. Lockhart wrote about his characteristics:

He was extremely forward in effecting what he aimed at and designed, which he owned and promoted above Board, being altogether free of the least Share of Dissimulation, and his Word so sacred, that one might assuredly depend on it … being altogether incapable of the servile Dependency, and …endowed with that cheerful, lively Temper, and personal Valour, esteemed and necessary

He demanded a high price from Anne to do the job she asked of him to run the Scottish parliament, and a desperate court gave in to his demand for an English peerage. He planned his campaign with the precision of a man more at home in the military than at the court, and his fierce discipline, his authority, his confidence and the sheer weight of his dynasty pulled leading members of parliament round to his party. He understood his opponents also; the Duke of Hamilton was the leading sceptic of Union, but was brought round to agreeing to support a committee to look at the basis on which an agreement might be made. OK. But then astoundingly, Hamilton allowed himself to be convinced that Anne herself should choose the commissioners. Anne was hardly likely to choose Scots sceptical to the idea of Union.  Arygyll did convinced him to agree, by promising that Anne could be persuaded to male he, Hamilton, would be part of the committee.

Argyll’s intervention transformed the situation; but his role was to be short lived; Anne refused to appoint Hamilton, and Argyll resigned his commission in protest and returned to Marlborough and the Nine Years’ War. But the log jam was broken, and Queensberry would return to a very different situation as his replacement.

Now then, maybe you have heard this before

We’re bought and sold for English gold-

Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

This was written in 1791 by Robert Burns about the Treaty of Union in 1707 that would result; and I could say that I am here to tell you that in 1707 no one believed Rabbie’s cry of pain against Union, and that the touns and cities of Scotland erupted with joy when news of the union was announced. But if I did claimed such a thing you would probably cancel your membership. And I have to tell you, oh listener most gentle, that you would be right to withdraw your membership. The vast majority of the Scottish people as far as we can tell, hated it, hated the idea of Union. And not just a little. A lot.  I did that thing I am sure you are not meant to do of trying to put myself in the place of a Scot hearing news that they were now part of Great Britain. Unfortunately that kind of back fired because as a Remoaner I would be more than happy to give England’s sovereignty to the United States of Europe. Whether the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish would join me in going so far I do not know. But for your own parts, it is a question you might like to ask yourself when considering the 1707 Treaty of Union. What an absolutely stonking , extraordinary, earth shattering, and essentially gob smacking event it was. I have only two words for you to express my astonishment.



The British Project would prove by, let’s say 1800 certainly to have been jolly successful, and until the 1960s ish the objectors were over sensitive souls like Rabbie or sandal wearing swivel eyed loonies. Now of course it’s pretty much 50/50 for and against union in Scotland, and que sera, and the majority of English think it’s up to the Scots to decide. But the point I am crawling laboriously towards was that in the days of my youth, in the 1970s, before I had been told what it is to be a man, the union was indivisible, obvious, a shoe in, a gimme. Of course the Scots and English voted for it in 1707 ‘cos it was obvious, innit, inevitable.

Well, as hopefully I have given you to understand, there seems nothing inevitable about the Union in 1705. In fact the clever money was against it. So how it happened in 1707 was something of a miracle. And there is a strong tradition that the Queen simply bought the Scottish parliament, and the Scottish MPs were all rogues. Anyway, let’s hear.

Anne convened the English and Scottish Commissioners to sit in the Cockpit in Court at Whitehall. Anne, possibly unsurprisingly, had chosen people well disposed towards the idea of Union. There was only one Scottish commissioner opposed to the idea of Union; and there were no English Tories, who would have opposed Union as it would exclude the Stuart succession. The main outline of the treaty seems to have been agreed within days; because the groundwork seems to have been agreed well in advance. The big ticket item on the Scottish side was free trade, access to the English market and colonies; on the English side, the succession; on the Queen and her government’s side the format of union – it must assure security, that Scotland could be governed to ensure stability and provide no comfort to her enemies. So – the focus must be on incorporating Union, not a federal one which allowed Scotland separate governance. Although the whole process took three months, most of it therefore concentrated on detail like tax rates, heritable rights of the nobility. It did not discuss the church.




The word that occurs to me first about The Treaty of Union that was consequently laid before the Scottish parliament in October 1706 is…well, dull. Uninspiring. There are no grand words and high aspirations as you get in the American Declaration of Independence oo Constitution or so on. This is a practical business arrangement hammered out between men of business. There was a lot of focus on how to harmonise taxes so that the Scots wouldn’t be too adversely affected because taxes were higher in England and Wales, that sort of thing. They seem to have thought the benefits so obvious they didn’t need to be sold.

The new state to be created was to be called Great Britain; This is an important point right now; the previous kingdoms, of England and Wales on the one hand, and Scotland on the other were to cease to exist. This will be relevant in 2022, when the Scottish Parliament appeal to the Supreme Court that they could simply vote to dissolve the Union Treaty without the UK parliament agreeing, and the Supreme Court said no – because neither of the two entities that made the treaty existed anymore. History is relevant you see.

I think the principles of the flag were agreed, through the actual design wasn’t agreed until April 1707; the Scots wanted the saltire on top, Anne went for what we now have as the Union jack, and I hate to say it but just on design grounds it does look better, and is surely a bit of a classic; the Scottish version looks as though someone’s taken the flag of St George and crossed it out; which many Scots may still think is deeply appropriate, but I couldn’t possibly comment. The flag apparently changes in 1801 I think mainly to deepen the colour of the blue of the saltire. Anyway – this is not the big point about the Union that we got a pretty new flag! Sorry.

So Yes, no sonorous words. Now, despite the apparent opposition of the Tories, there was to be little debate in England; the Union treaty would arrive in London to cheering crowds, it whizzed through parliament without touching the sides of its throat There were objections to the loss of the English parliament, the new name of Great Britain; but we are talking low level here – and that reflects the level of impact.

That was categorically not the case in Scotland. There, the debate was loud, furious and frequently either violent or close to it; the main subject of the debate was not economics, but sovereignty. Here the format of Union is probably also important; there had been Scottish proposals for a sort of federal arrangement that preserved the parliament of Scotland, but for the Queen and her English government, this was no union at all; it would not allow the government in Westminster to assure security, and therefore was pointless. Maybe opposition would have been less fierce if the Parliament of Scotland had remained, I don’t know. Interestingly, one of the pro unionist writers was Daniel Defoe – yes, that Daniel Defoe. Now of course, he argued strongly that a federal arrangement was simply a route to constant disagreement, that some parts of the union would do better than others. That only an incorporating Union would deliver peace,

it must then be a union of the very soul of the nation, all its constitution, customs, trade and manners, must be blended together, digested and concocted, for the mutual united, undistinguish’t, good, growth and health of the one, whole, united body

Daniel Defoe, of course was employing all his rhetorical talents on behalf of the government.

Now, when I say opposition was fierce by the way let me be clear; it was fierce outside parliament. Inside, there was opposition but of a different order of magnitude. We have some broad factions here, similar I suppose to the 1703 parliament. The opposition was led by the Duke of Hamilton and the Country party, with the Jacobite Cavaliers on their side; the Presbyterian element too was in opposition. In the other corner were the Court party, and there was to be no management mess up this time as in 1703; it is notable that the vote in parliament from the court party never wavered throughout the process.

As the debates were carried on in Edinburgh Scotland was intensely engaged and passionate. There were musters, meetings, protests and frequently violence simmered just below the surface and sometimes above it. The Privy Council ensured the Scottish standing army, about 1,500 of them were stationed just outside Edinburgh; but still they felt insecure, and asked Godolphin to station English troops as close to the border as possible. One of the many accusations about the Union is that it was done with the threat of war; as far as the presence of troops on the border is concerned, they were there at the request of the Scots, and the idea of them plunging across the border on receipt of a negative vote is vanishingly low.

However, to look at it from another perspective; if the Union was rejected, the prospect of war would at sometime indeed be very likely. After all the last time the Scots had exercised their right to select own monarch, in selecting Charles II at the time of the Commonwealth it had resulted in war. I mean true enough, at that time round they explicitly did so on the basis that they would be re-instate Charles on the throne of England too, but if they now chose a Stuart future, would that Stuart king be content to remain up north? Would England and Wales ever be safe from invasion? It is very difficult to see an alternative, although a federal relationship with regal union would have had a better chance I guess. But my point is; this is a massive, high stakes decision the Scots were engaged in, none higher, and if they turned it down they themselves might in practical terms be choosing to wage war on their southern neighbours – just as they had done in 1649.




To give you an idea of the general direction of the debate, it is useful to know that the opposition did their best to mobilise opinion outside parliament in order to influence the vote inside, and one of their methods was petitioning. I have seen a few stats that vary, but there were a lot. Not from every shire, not from every burgh but, when you tot them up, there seem to have been 96 against the union, and presented for the Union … give me a moment…just counting…the grand total of… zip. None. Not so much as the sausage, or even the vague aroma of a possible sausage. It does give a reasonable idea of how the great Scottish Public felt on this point.

The objections were mainly constitutional and sovereign as I say. Some were Jacobite in origin – 112 Stuart kings in an unbroken line, which I think is a bit mythical but the numbers are categorically not the point. Appeals were made to the Battle of Bannockburn, there was a deal of xenophobia, but it wasn’t as simple as unionist on one side and nationalists on the other; there were federalist arguments too, and of course Unionists argued fiercely that Union was the patriotic option, the best future for the Scottish people. But the main objection was of course the loss of independence; the Jacobite George Lockhart claimed that when thinking of the Union

all true Scotsmen looked upon it as a gross Invasion on their Liberties and Sovereignty

Part of that independence came to rest on the succession; Jacobites obviously objected to a union based on the exclusion of the Stuart line; and so of course were many of the non-juring Episcopalians, who believed that the hereditary line was inviolate, that the succession couldn’t be decided by parliament.

There was a religious aspect to all of this too, from the strongly Presbyterian regions. They viewed the English church as ‘just a bent knee away from popery’ and were ferociously against the union which would unite them with a stronger neighbour who would be bound, surely to impose Bishops on them again. The pulpits echoed with condemnation of the Union; at one point the ultra radical Cameronians plotted to raise a rebellion…in conjunction with the Jacobites in the Highlands, with whom in normal times they would not even pass the time of day. It came to nothing, but there were anti union riots both in the south west and in Glasgow.

Not even with the economic argument was the union secure, as the reaction of the burghs demonstrated. Landowners exporting Cattle and grain certainly stood to benefit, and hugely – they’d already seen massive growth, how much better it would be with tariffs removed. But for traders and manufacturers …well, free trade would expose them to a mass of bigger competitors, who might well just sweep them away. At the same time they worried about increased taxation also making their lives harder.

Outside parliament, then the opposition were much better organised than the Unionists. They dominated the argument, their voice was noisy, sometimes but not often violent; the Scottish people showed themselves to be Anglophobic, very sensitive to any perceived slight against their nation – and indeed were without doubt understandably upset about some very real slights from south of the border. The strength of anti union feeling meant that the opponents – Jacobites and Episcopalians – were increasingly able to present themselves as the champions of patriotism and the Scottish Nation.

Although there were no pro union petitions, there were some pro union pamphlets. Outnumbered so extensively that  if they’d been outside the gates of Mordor, they’d probably have decided this was that day, and happily surrendered when the Black Gates opened. But they were there none the less. They argued that the Union would secure Scotland from Radical covenanters, would secure society from Jacobites; again bear in mind that the arrival of a Stuart king would undoubted result in mayhem, expense, war and death. Amongst these gifts, Union would give an opportunity for economic advancement at a time of economic pain. Daniel Defoe made a strong argument in terms of peace and stability. Now of course, he was an Englishman, and working on behalf of the government. But he was joined by Scottish voices in presenting the Union as the only solution to age-old warring, and internecine conflict. The riots and chaos of the opposition campaign rather played into this argument.




The acknowledged leader of the Opposition was the Duke of Hamilton; remember the charismatic, wild, adventurous and eloquent Duke? Who’d been at the French court, had multiple affairs in court, struggled against the disapproval of his father with his defiance to William? That Duke of Hamilton. So it was to him that the opposition looked

‘Everie one is sparring ether to speak or writ of your brother Hamilton to me

His mother wrote to her eldest daughter. And Hamilton spoke with great eloquence and passion, frequently moved his supporters to tears and voted against every article.  He was loudly cheered in the streets and on his way to debates – the Duke of Queensberry meanwhile needed to take a contingent of armed men with him to avoid being hurt! So far, so good, just what you want in an opposition leader.

But the truth is that Hamilton was a wildly unsatisfactory leader. He was constantly changing his mind, and constantly bottling it. At one point as I say a rising was planned from the Western Highlands with Jacobites and Radical Presybterians; after encouraging it, Hamilton suddenly got cold feet and it all collapsed. At one point he organised a mass walkout of parliament, to deprive the Union treaty, if approved, of legitimacy. When the day came he didn’t turn up – claimed he had a tooth ache. I mean – come on! Doubters of his leadership pointed out a couple of inconvenient facts; that his wife brought him substantial lands south of the border. The other thing was, that at one point he made a frankly disastrous and bizarre announcement. Now you might remember that the Hamiltons had a connection to the Stuart royal line; it has come up before but so far back I doubt my ability to either dig it out or even deal with the nomenclature of cousins removed many times and generations. But while all this was going on he declared that if approved, the treaty of union should in no way prejudice the right of the Hamiltons to the crown of Scotland. It’s disconcerting to have a leader who’s obviously planning for failure, and also thinks Union might actually lead to a rather cushy future.

His poor long-suffering mother the Dowager Duchess of Hamilton, if that’s the right term, sums it up very nicely in another letter

‘itt passes my comprehension to find out a tolerable face for his actings this session of parliament and I am so ashamed on his behalf that I know nither what to say or how to look

Hamilton’s deeply compromised leadership was both a cause of the outcome, but also a symptom of the many other causes. So, thinking of the opposition in another way – they were a rag tag coalition, who could barely look at each other let alone co-operate. The Jacobites, or Cavaliers in parliament were a very, very unlikely ally for the Presbyterians who for their part felt a deep hatred for the Stuarts who had persecuted them, and for a Catholic monarch. The news that the Episcopalians and Presbyterians were working together is reason enough for a jaw and floor contact moment. In parliament they were poorly lead, and struggled continually with conflicting objectives. The burghs were split between those who saw opportunity in free trade and those who saw disaster – and duly their votes on many articles were usually split 50/50. Throughout the debate the opposition in parliament never came up with a coherent set of proposals as an alternative to the proposed treaty.

The Court and their party were much better prepared, better organised, had a clear objective and agenda around which to mobilise, and were equipped with the tools to bring votes to their side – nudge, nudge, wink wink. Another way of looking at this of course is that the committee had for three months considered what sort of Union would be ace[ted. So we should get down and dirty, and look at the main points of the union.






A reasonable place to start is a speech made by the Earl of Roxborough, who was at the head of a critical grouping, the exotically named Squadrone Volante – the flying squad. The group of about 25 MP were a splinter group from the Country party, a grouping broadly led by Tweeddale which had been called the New party. They called themselves squadrone Volante because they professed not to adhere to any grouping – they’d fly where they wanted, vote on the clauses as they wanted not according to any party manager’s bidding. Both Roxborough and Tweeddale had voted against the idea of Union on the previous occasion, essentially seeing it as a takeover. In fact, the group they mainly flew in one direction, as we’ll see. Anyway back to that Roxborough quote, explaining why he thought people would support Union:

The motive will be, free trade with most, Hanover with some, ease and security with others, together with a general aversion to discords, intolerable poverty and the constant oppression of a bad ministry

The bad ministry in question being William III of course. It’s a neat summary of the arguments in favour of union among MPs.

Now then, the Scottish parliament was now divided into factions – the Country party, court party, Jacobites, Presbyterians and the Squadrone volante. But of course you have to put from your mind the idea that these are organised parties – when we say ‘Party’, it’s more by way of a party of hormonal teenagers who decide to hang out and attract an eclectic mix of other passing teenager who think they look like a good bunch. The breakdown of the vote on each article varied quite a bit -there were 25 articles of the treaty of Union by the way.

Before the debates started though, in November Queensberry, Argyll and the government landed probably the critical blow, right on that week spot on the chin that makes boxers drop like a stone. Queensberry steered an act through parliament called the Act of Security of the Church of Scotland, The act guaranteed that the existing kirk of Scotland would be preserved as it currently was, and made it a precondition to Union. Now as it happens some measure of toleration was to be forced on Scotland the new British government in 1713, but nonetheless the guts of the bill survived; this Charles III in his recent coronation swore to protect the Presbyterian church of Scotland.

Well this absolutely took the wind out of the Presbyterian & kirk opposition. That’s not to say that there was no opposition from any presbyterians – far from it. Radicals still objected to being part of one nation with a bunch they thought of as separated from Catholicism by nothing more than the width of a cigarette paper. But the kirk as a body was no longer opposed, and could now see the advantages to Union – support against the threat of returning Catholicism or invasion by a Catholic power. So as an organisation it no longer campaigned. The pulpits no longer rang with indignation.

So, turning to the act of Union. It started by proclaiming that the new state would be called Great Britain; that the parliaments of Scotland and England would be replaced. Of course, the new parliament would be in Westminster so…basically the Scottish parliament would vote itself out of existence if passed. This article was the closest of all – it passed by 110 votes to 67, so a pretty clear majority. The Squadrone voted in favour, as they mostly would; had they voted against, as the Country party would generally been expected to, the vote would have been 84 – 92 against – and the Union would have fallen.

In the new parliament the Scots would have 45 MPs in a parliament of 558. Hhm. That doesn’t seem fair and I have always wondered why and how it was justified; after all if it was done by population, it should have been 103 MPs. Well, it’s rather revealing as to the spirit of the union in some ways – it was based on the expected tax revenue. And when challenged the English Commissioners had retorted that if they followed the strict maths, on the amount of expected revenue from each country, Scotland would have had only 15 MPs. See how generous and lovely they were ? I’ll just leave that there for you all. In addition there would be 16 Scottish representatives in the new House of Lords

Article IV allowed for ‘Freedom and intercourse of Trade and Navigation’ – free trade essentially; and despite the doubts of some of the burghs, this was the real vote winner – only 19 votes against the article;  but most of the burghs were among them, which is ominous. Another vote winner inside parliament was the confirmation of the lairds and peers heritable rights and jurisdictions, the kind of rights and roles which had long become public offices in England and Wales, but were still part of the fabric of local noble power for Scottish society. For some this was another sign of a stitch up; a sort of bribe for the privileged. For others is was all part of the negotiation that the new British state would be sensitive of Scottish rights, customs and liberties. You pays your money, and so on.

On that line, another major part of the negotiation was on civil law; Scottish civil law was to be preserved in Scotland; the Court of Session would “remain in all time coming within Scotland”, and Scots law would “remain in the same force as before”.

Now we come to the famous article XV, and associated money and rights articles, which is where we come to the heart of Robbie Burns and many, many others accusations. Article XV allowed for what was called the equivalent. The Equivalent was £398,000 to be paid to qualifying folk – taxpayers essentially – to compensate them for taking on their share of England’s national debt. England’s national debt was not a small matter, swollen as it was by years of war. The equivalent was also to be paid to compensate investors in the failed Darien scheme. Some saw these as nothing more than reasonable, and there was nothing hidden about the Equivalent, it’s there in black and white in the Treaty. However there was something distinctly shady about the £20,000 paid to the Duke of Queensberry, supposedly to pay existing office holders their overdue salary; it’s been suspected that it was not for this reason, or not for this reason alone. Dot, dot, and if I may say, dot.

Then there’s the thoroughly 18th century way of doing business – the lavish use of patronage and promise of offices for government supporters. The Duke of Argyll is used as an example; he returned to vote and speak in the crucial final session – and received an English peerage and promotion to Major General; though it’s worth noting that he’d negotiated that well before, when being persuaded to return and remove the log jam as Queen’s Commissioner, in 1706. The Duke of Queensberry was awarded the Order of the Thistle; the Earl of Glencairn was given offices, and he’d been in the opposition previously.



But there are a few points to make. The lavish use of patronage was not unusual in either English or Scottish parliaments; there’s little new here; maybe the extent of it, but then this was a critical vote. Queensberry certainly managed patronage with great care and efficiency; there’s no doubt it was a factor. But members of the opposition would also profit with honours and roles in the new British state, including Hamilton. And there were many members who voted for Union with no inducement – at least 13 have been specifically identified by name, there may have been significantly more. The historian Laura Stewart concludes  that the whole business of bribery and patronage was more important for persuading yes voters to hold their nerve, than switching nays to the other side; Tom Devine doesn’t necessarily disagree, but suggests that the Equivalent and patronage was probably very influential in persuading the Squadrone Volante to become supporters of the Court party – but of course even then we can’t know for sure.

How you view the whole business probably varies; between careful and sensible parliamentary management at one end, and payment of the so-called Price of Scotland, paid by a bunch of rogues to a bunch of rogues at the other end.

Right then by golly and indeed by gum, we have I think reached the end of all of this. On 16th January 1707 the final vote took place in the Scottish parliament and was passed by 110 votes to 67, a majority of 43 and 24%. The Act was passed through the English parliament by a majority of 274 to 116, a majority of 41%. It came into force on 1st May 1707. It’s said that when the Scottish peer James Ogilvy signed the Treaty, he murmured

Now there’s the end of an auld sang

It is worth noting that he had voted for the Union all the way through and been part of the negotiations, but even if you approved of the Union, signing the parliament out of existence that can be traced back to 1235 is a big thing and a part of you whoever you were would be at least at some level have been gutted, even if you saw a bright future ahead.


Shall we sum up, survey, come to some sort of conclusions as far as we are able? Or Not? Go on, you know you want to.

At the height of the success of the British Project, I suspect a majority of British of many shades thought about the Union as something inevitable as I have said. I’m not entirely sure exactly when the height was, but let’s plump for 8th May 1945 just a suggestion. As I hope the foregoing episode, and indeed preceding 77 episodes have shown, the Union was by no means a gimme. The idea had been rejected at multiple times since the regal union in 1603, and usually foundered on the rock both of Scottish and English indifference to the desires of the monarch.

The attempts of Charles I to bring around a coming together of only the religious cultures alone  – had ended up in a rebellion, and a short-lived Union had only been achieved under the Commonwealth at the end of a musket. Repeatedly under Charles and William the idea had been mooted and dumped, as recently as 1702. There is just this moment in time when the Succession crisis, war in Europe, a Whig government, economic chaos in Scotland all come together and make it possible. Soon after, Godolphin falls from power and the Tories succeed in England; the Tories were not keen on Union at all, and the possibility may have gone never to return.

Even putting to one side the considerations of a long history and culture of two independent nations, the Union is definitely to be put in the gobsmacking category is it not? I have to say, when it comes to the history of political unions, I would not choose it for my Mastermind subject, I am categorically no expert; but are there many other unions between nations negotiated by Treaty? I’m sure there must be, there’s nothing new under the sun; there’s the Treaty of Kalmar I think, 1397-1523, though not sure if there’s actually a written Treaty. You might argue the United States of America is such a thing might you not? There are unions created by conquest and marriage all over the place of course, common as muck, Brittany and France for example; but by Treaty? Answers on a postcard. I bet there’s a list – but even so putting everything else aside it’s quite an achievement isn’t it? Indeed later historians, in the period when British historians saw it as part of their job to big the home country up, sang about a Union which was part of the national psyche, just like the Empire, built on trade not conquest. We will of course, come back to that claim about a non-violent Empire, cough cough, but they do have a point about the former.

The other side of that story of an agreement based on trade, though, is the extraordinarily practical, almost cold hearted nature of this agreement and union. This is a business contract, absolutely dry as dust; as I said before there are no grand statements about how the treaty would make the lives of its citizens better, and there’s even very little indeed about how the new state will be run. Looking back on it, even Daniel Defoe, whose job it was to be positive about an incorporating Union, wrote that

A firmer union of policy with less union of affection has hardly been known in the whole world

It is also fashionable to be a bit apologetic about the Union and the way it was achieved; I refer you to earlier in this episode about all the shenanigans, and the cold hearted nature of it. Many are the Scottish nationalist I have read or listened to who have described the original union as horribly tainted, seeped in corruption and the threat of force, in a spirit of mutual xenophobia, a Union based on foundations unworthy of the name. But let me for the moment just put an opposing view.

The multiple previous attempts at an incorporating union had failed because they presented a peculiarly English view – James VI and I, though a Scot, proposed that a full union be accompanied by the imposition throughout Great Britain by English Law. The English looked at the relative sizes of the nations, and designed their expectations accordingly – I think someone even said something along the lines of a beggar brings no dowry to the wedding. I couldn’t find the actual line.

This was, unsurprisingly, unacceptable to the Scots, who demanded and expected to join as equals, not as supplicants. And looking at the nature of this treaty, is that was sure achieved.  Not that the negotiation was easy; the English stuck to their guns in believing that only full incorporation would bring the level of security required, particularly around the succession, and struck a hard bargain in terms of representation. In that, it’s true there is an implicit lack of equality – the Scots join the English parliament to create the new. But Scottish politicians achieved much more than a wad of cash; they retained their legal system and liberties, their church; the Treaty of Union explicitly recognises that Scotland is a distinctive nation. And as I believe Tom Devine has pointed out, a Treaty that always implied a level of a bargain that could be dissolved – but I stray into modern politics. And in return both parties created the largest free trade area in Europe. In time the benefits of that to its citizens would be immense.

I doubt that would go down well on Twitter, but let’s hear it for the Union.

However, the future in 1707 was very unclear. How would it work in practice? In particular would the burghs’ pessimism about economics be realised? As Tom Devine again has argued, there was a very real possibility that Scotland’s economy would not benefit; that it would be overpowered by the wealthier and more advanced traders and manufacturers of England, and would become a subsidiary, colonial economy, focussing only on producing primary goods like cattle, coal and grain for the English market – the fate, he argues, of the Irish economy. The burgh of Montrose was highly dependant on linen and declared

One needs not the gift of prophecy to foretell what would be the fate of this poor, miserable, blinded nation in a few years

Not feeling positive about the Union, essentially. And there is no denying that when Scotland joined England and Wales in Great Britain they created a new state, not a nation. The future remained very unclear; would economic growth or economic subjugation be the outcome? Would the Scottish people become reconciled to this new state? It’s also worth noting that many English saw a loss of autonomy in this new entity. Meanwhile the Union made no attempt to erase the distinctive cultural identity of the Scots, and it remained to be seen if together the Scots, English, Welsh and Irish would make Great Britain a nation with its own identity.

[1] Lynch, ‘Scotland’, p308

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