Transcript for HoS 80

Last time on the History of Scotland…we heard about the troubled start to Union, that was almost strangled in its infancy – one attempt was made in its very heart, the House of Lords at Westminster. Another was made from Perth, where highland and lowland meet, the famous Jacobite rising of the ’15, led by one of the ancient Magnate family of the Earls of Mar. We heard how although they failed, the causes of Jacobitism were deep and long; not purely loyalty to a defeated and ancient dynasty, though that was important, but supported by those who felt sidelined by the continuing supremacy of the 1688 Presbyterian church settlement, and excluded from Patronage and economic success by the Union and Hanoverian succession. We also heard how the promised economic boom had not arived – in fact rather the opposite.

So this time we are going to talk about the story of early Union Scotland. I think, possibly wrongly that there are some rubrics here from the books I have read; a traditional one of a venal elite class more committed to personal success and wealth down at Westminster, becoming increasingly anglicised along the way; becoming the servants of an English political elite at best distracted from Scottish priorities, and at worst patronising, arrogant and hostile to them. And that in the process, Scottish interests are abandoned, and the idea of a positive British identity remains a very distant dream.

If I have read that right, I’m not going to tell you there’s no truth in it, so you can relax, but also as I’m sure you’ve guessed nor is it by any means the whole truth. We are going to hear that things stay difficult, economic benefits remain disappointing, but we are also going to hear that there was a vision for Scotland, and for Britain and that that begins to emerge. Sometime over the next few episodes we’ll hear how a British identity emerges to sit beside Scottish – and indeed English identities.

So it’s probably worth talking then about how the Union was now looking from Westminster, how was this exciting new venture being managed?  You might think such an monumental Union would be followed by monumental focus. In which case you’d be wrong. It becomes glaringly obvious that everyone in 1707 was so focussed on the deal, getting the Union done, that little thought had been given to what came afterwards. And, regrettably it’s probably also true that once the objective of security was achieved, the English turned to other matters, war, succession, and so on.

So how would the new world be implemented, then? Let me first remind you of the nature of the Scottish representatives who spent much of the time in Westminster. The factions of the Union period essentially come south. There are 19 representative peers in the Lords, 45 MPs elected to the Commons. They are dominated by three broad groups. There are what you might call Scottish Tories; sceptical of the Union, outraged about the first attempts to make it work, and who as we see came within an ace of making it the shortest union in the history of unionism. But in the end it was the old Squadrone who had the most numbers and who won out; these are almost Ultra Whigs you might say, utterly convinced that the new Great Britain must be absolutely in line with a single entity, the old divisions must be swept away; just slightly off to one side, is the third group, small at the moment; a couple of Campbells, the Duke of Argyll and his younger brother Islay. They’re just trying to fit in, they’ll have their day; also whiggish, also behind the Union, but a bit more old school the rule of the Scottish regional magnates, let’s manage this thing a bit more pragmatically shall we.

From the Union to 1725, though, it’s the Squadrone who manage to dominate. Obviously, government needed to be transferred from the Old two state world to the new unitary state; and as we heard last time, it had been decided that having a separate Privy Council in Scotland would not be sufficiently purely in the spirit of one glorious Britain. Instead there would be a Secretary of State for Scotland, based in Westminster. They would lead the implementation of this brave new world.

So far so good, you might think; everyone’s getting on with it, there’s a strategy, the Scots are integrating with the new British state. And indeed in a way if you cast an eye over the lives of the Scottish political elite, well, they were acquiring houses in England, marrying into English families; it might be said carrying on that processes of integration into a British ruling class which had been going on since James VI became James VI and I back in 1603. But it hides a less happy truth

There’s no getting round it. They meet from many of the English at best indifference, and at worst outright hostility; who were these new outsiders, when there was so much stuff going on with succession crises, Jacobites, foreign wars, economic turmoil? What was this new British thing that had been foisted on good old England – or, now that we’ve dealt with the problem can’t Scotland just pipe down?

Now these Scottish representatives don’t get a great press from history. I think it would not be unfair of me to characterise one narrative as look – these guys look English they sound English, they smell English – they are just out for their own enrichment, they leave Scotland behind. They are simply tools of the English establishment, which has just changed the labels from England to Britain and nowt else.

It’s a harsh and unfair judgement; the Scots do work together and do lobby hard for Scottish concerns; that is their focus as much as the wider concerns of the British state. BUT but but, until the arrival of the Earl of Bute as Prime Minister in the 1760s, there’s almost no one at all Scottish sitting at the top table on the government and ministry, in a British sense. So if you look at the Ministers of the British state – Treasury, Southern and Northern Secretaries, Foreign affairs, Chancellor and so on – there are no Scots until George III puts the Bute in.

So whether or not Scotland was well managed, even the Scottish political elite had a right to feel they were not being treated as equal partners. The other thing is that for most of the time there is no Scot even in control of Scottish affairs. This doesn’t look good.

In addition, Scotland wasn’t really being well managed. It became painfully clear that no one had really thought through the problems of turning Scotland + England and Wales into Britain. The big one, the biggest single expression of the 18th century state was the collection of tax, of extending customs and excise collection, which we touched on last time, and has already caused so much pain. I’d like to remind you that one of the features of the 18th century British state is that it is small, there are no phalanxes of civil servants in brightly lit offices and shiny computers – tax collecting, justice maybe army. In Britain it’s even smaller by European standard, small in comparison with the European Absolutist monarchies who had spent so much effort extending the central administration.

So the problem of extending tax collection over the new nation was a real one – new employees, new procedures, new intrusions – and new expenses. And since Scots continued to pay lower tax, from an English point of view it looked as though they weren’t paying their way; from a Scottish point of view – what on earth’s going on? We’ve got this shiny new union, and we are just being hammered by tax collectors and new competitors, that’s just great. The result, one more time, is riot and vast, vast smuggling on an industrial scale. Which got up the nose of English merchants. A bit of a doom loop going on.

So the problems that had almost lead to dissolution in 1713 didn’t go away. In fact they got worse. After the peace of Utrecht in 1713, foreign war is over, and under the terms of the Treaty of Union it was now fair game to regularise taxes between England and Scotland so the same rates were being applied. Whether it was fair is one question, but whether it would be wise was quite another; but that is what parliament demanded. A new Malt tax that would be applied more equally across all Britain; still with concessions in Scotland according to ability to pay, but one tax none the less. Roll up, roll up, it’s 1725 and the new Malt Tax is here, happy days are here again welcome Scotland to the land of opportunity.

The riots that erupted in Scotland have been described as ‘a movement of national resistance’[1]. There were mass riots in Stirling, Dundee, Ayr, Elgin, Paisley and Glasgow; there were 8 fatalities in Glasgow, Dragoons had to be deployed. Government had clearly failed, politically and administratively. The Secretary of State for Scotland sat in London had failed to predict, understand, plan or react effectively – sort of nought out of ten.

Even the leading minister of the crown, a Norfolk squire called Robert Walpole was worried. So he turned to the locals; remember those Campbells we mentioned, the Duke of Argyll and his younger bro the earl of Islay? These guys were from Scotland’s most powerful family, let them investigate and find out what was going on. To be fair, the Duke himself was much more interested in his life in the British Army and changing things on his vast estates, so its Islay who will lead. A short extract from his report, just a snippet, reported back that there had been

‘a long series of no administration in Scotland…the mere letter of the law had little or no effect with the people’

Smuggling, the black market, tax evasion was endemic, maybe 50% of trade was black. Scotland seemed ungovernable within the Union. But look that’s not all. Oh dearie me no, that’s not everything by a chalk as long as the longest of long things. We’ve not even mentioned Jacobites this week yet.

We left things in the aftermath on the ’15, wondering how to respond. After the previous 1708 rising/invasion there’d been a deal of muttering down south that for supporters of a foreign invasion in Scotland there’d been remarkably little penalty inflicted, and surely this time it ought to be different. But there were enough influential of Scots at Westminster who shook their heads and warned that ugly repression hadn’t been a great idea then, and it wouldn’t be now; Jacobitism had too many friends in the north. One of the Government supporters in the Highlands, one Duncan Forbes of Culloden wrote that there were

Not 200 gentlemen in the whole kingdom who are not very nearly related to some or other of the rebels

The views of folk like the Duke of Argyll and Islay, pretty much won the day. 19 rebel peers did have land attainted, and 2 were executed, some soldiers were transported; but in England about 40 were executed. So repression was light, and there’s also some more positive stuff we’ll talk about – an attempt to plough the money from the land that was attainted into economic development which we’ll talk more of, because it will be a bit of a theme. But the thing you need to know, is that Jacobitism categorically doesn’t go away after the ’15. It doesn’t go away in Ireland, nor in England, but it most certainly does not go away in Scotland. Jacobites still dream, of the return of the Stuart dynasty, the return of a high church led by powerful monarch in absolute majesty.

Those dreams though do face a few problems though. Most Jacobites realised that the world was a hostile place to rebellion these days, because in the wake of the French wars there were still lots of armies about who could crush them, bug like. All but the most stary-eyed realised that for rebellion against the Hanoverian oppressor to succeed, foreign support was needed. Regrettable, obviously, but look – you can’t make an omelette without chopping the mushrooms. And those French and Spanish, they’re nice supportive folks with the best interests at heart of the Irish, Scots, English and Welsh. Let’s talk Omelette du Fromage with them. Or possibly frittata. Whatever is the most appropriate culinary metaphor, let’s use it.

From the other side of Chefs table, in France Spain and so on, there was no an additional problem. Matters of state and self interest ruled a little larger than romantic tales of political justice and hereditary re-instalment.  Now to add to the peace of Utrecht in 1713, there was in January 1717 the triple alliance between Britain, France, and the Dutch republic. Cardinal Fleury the Chief Minister of France was seriously unimpressed with the Jacobite promise, he had much more important fish that needed frying now that he was allied with Britain. Hey, that James guy in that French Chateau, he’s a bit embarrassing when I meet with the Hanoverian state – do we need him around, he’s making me look bad?

James the old Pretender was become James the Traveller. Turfed out from Paris, to the province of Lorraine. Then to the Papal enclave in Avignon. Nope, still too close. Load up the cards, close the curtains, snuff out the candles, we’re off again. ‘Beyond the mountains’ as the bards put it, through Italy to a new home for the most catholic would be king, to the papal states. Pope Clement XI he did grumble a bit – but he came up roses. James had a home – a shiny Palazzo in Rome, the Palazzo Muti, plus a country home at Albano, and a papal pension of about £3000 to pay the bills and use of the leather swivel chair on Wednesday afternoons and cuddly toys over the weekend.

Dispiriting news about France sure. But Old Pretender was nothing but persistent, and his court in exile remained active. New News hit Britain pretty quickly; in 1717 it seemed Charles XII of Sweden of all people was fixing to use the Jacobites as a way to distract Britain and get his grubby little hands on Hanover. Fortunately for George  though less fortunately for Charles XII of Sweden, Charles XII of Sweden chose that moment also to die, and had less influence in his new palazzo beyond the grave.

But just as the light in Swedish eyes went dark, Spanish eyes were smiling. There’s this bloke right, George Keith, and he’s the 10th Earl Marischal; as I am sure we have discussed at some point, the Scots had an earl Marshal just like their southern and continental neighbours, a title which started under William the Lion and was made hereditary I believe by Robert the Bruce. The Marischal had been happy enough to fight under Marlborough’s army under the safely Stuart Queen Anne, but a Hanoverian was too rich for his loyal blood. He’d turned Jacobite in the ‘15, and fled with the Earl of Mar as it collapsed around his ears, to the side of the Old Pretender. Who had a job for him. To Take himself off to Madrid as the Old Pretender’s Ambassador to do a little diplomatic fishing. Because a new war had started would you believe – tsk, us Europeans eh? Always at it, hammer and tongs. We are in the little known War of the Quadruple alliance – which is essentially the Spanish kicking against the Peace of Utrecht which had removed Italy from their grasp. Which they wanted back. They were not going to get back Sardinia or Sicily actually, they were in fact going to get back diddly squat, but that didn’t stop them trying for a couple of years.

So when the pole was lowered into the water by the earl Marischal, the Spanish Pike nibbled. More than nibbled, bit and bit hard. Yup, sure, yes, happy to help; how would an expedition to the English west country of 5000 men, arms for an additional 15,000, command to be given to the Irish duke of Ormond do? Plus something for Scotland also, possibly a little more bijou, maybe a brace of Spanish frigates and 307 men under the command of the Earl Marischal? Hein? What say you fine sir?

Hmm said Marischal, as the Old Pretender legged it from Rome to Madrid and arrived, panting slightly at his side. Well…oh go on then why not? Silly not to. And it was so.

Well; to cut a long story short, it didn’t go quite to plan. The main fleet for England made it no further than Coruna which is not that far. The contingent for Scotland made it to Stornaway and then the mainland, and stalwarts of 1715 like Seaforth and Lord George Murray joined – but this time only about 1000 men turned up.  They were quickly defeated at the Battle of Glen Shiel, the Jacobites and Marischal escape, the Spanish surrender and the Brits shipped them home. So in retrospect, not at all to plan, and Marischal turned up back at Madrid, no crown. The Old Pretender became something of an embarrassment in Madrid, and when it was gently suggested that maybe he’d like to go back to Rome, he decided that would be appropriate.

Now no one except diehard Jacobite enthusiasts talk about the ’17 and the ’19 anymore. But they were talked about back then. 1708, 1715, 1717, 1719. Golly, this is serious. But there’s more; let us talk 1722.

Just to emphasise the point that although Scottish Jacobitism gets the press, it’s not all about the Scots you know. Francis Atterbury was a high Church Anglican, bishop, politician and man of letters. Unlikely to be a tiger on the field of battle possibly, but caught corresponding with Jimmy over the Water and planning to proclaim James III and VIII. Panic – more Jacobite plots, more fear of rebellion, civil war chaos disaster, probably floods, also frogs. Walpole nailed him – had to use slightly dicey methods to do so, but that’s your Walpole for you. Exiled to France to the service of the Old Pretender went Francis. So – add 1722 to the Jacobite plot list.

So in the words of Jean Jacques and the boys, Something Better change. In the aftermath of the 1725 Malt tax riots, Britain’s first Prime Minister Robert Walpole changes things up. The Secretary of State for Scotland is gone, the Squadrone are effectively dead as a leading coherent force in Scottish and British politics. Administration of Scotland is formerly integrated into the two main secretaries of state for the whole of Britain; there were two, the Southern and the Northern. It was the Northern that normally took Scotland. All the home stuff, plus also relationships with Netherlands, Scandinavia, Poland, Russia, and the Holy Roman Empire. Right. So. The special relationship then. Scotland, Poland, Wiltshire.

That is not in reality the system that Walpole establishes though, to integrate Scotland within the Union. Robin Walpole will go down in history as a corrupt and manipulative Prime Minister, and the brilliant, excoriating prose of geniuses such as Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope will be launched at his head like a river of ordure into the deepest of khazis. His head will survive though, Walpole had broad shoulders. He was also an extremely able man who manged to hold onto power is a time of shifting political and monarchical power for over 20 years by sheer force of personality and hard work. In common with a man who’s methods were described as to ‘charm, deceive and manipulate’, Walpole turned to the old ways to manage Scotland – to the magnates of Scotland, the Campbells. His system acquires a rather tricky name, the Argathelians. After their title and homeland, Argyll. Argathelian. I dunno – what do you think? Not sure it ever caught on.

The senior of the two brothers Campbell, the Duke of Argyll is very different to his younger brother the Earl of Islay. The Duke was an almost princely figure; we have come across him before as Queen Anne’s fixer at a key stage of the Union negotiations, he’s haughty, powerful, volatile; good at making enemies, something of a flouncer, much more interested in fighting in Marlborough’s wars – though he falls out with Marlborough. He’s not really interesting in the hard graft of day to day management of the levers of power, influencing, chats in the back room, taps on the shoulder, nods and winks, clever suggestions, jobs allocated to various obscure cousins here and there – the daily currency of 18th century politics. He’s a big idea man. More interested in cutting a dash, and also in making sure his estates back home start delivering a much better income, that they use the most modern agricultural and commercial models. Improvement he will call it. Destruction of the traditional highland way of life others will call it. To be discussed at some future point.




His younger brother Islay though was very different. He loved politics, loved it in the weft and warp, loved the texture of it running through his fingers. He’s a fascinating character – not well regarded I think it’s fair to say in the annals of popular Scottish history, not a name on the lips of the woman on the Brechin omnibus; a player of the politics of Westminster, a sellout, nowt but a tool of the English oppressor. There’s a smidge of truth, but nobbut a smidge I think, as you and I will now discuss.

He can certainly come across as cynical can Archibald Campbell, Earl of Islay – Archibald would you believe, lord do those Campbells love the name Archibald?  Islay saw politics as a game

… thus Politics is a continuall petty war and game, and as at all other games, we will sometimes win and sometimes loose, and he that plays best and has the best stock has the best chance

He wrote. He recognised Westminster politics as snake pit, and had no illusions about how high up the priority list Scotland stood in the new British world order

it was obviously our interest not to mingle ourselves too much with the factions here, I mean as Scotchmen, for it being very plain that no party here has our country much at heart, the exasperating any side here might at some conjuncture or other, draw both upon us, and crush us at once.

If I get into crude stereotypes, Islay is nothing like the modern image of the Highland clan chief – romantic, warlike, lover of the arts, supporter of lost causes – I mean I recognise that is utter pants because you know, Highland chiefs were as hard headed and commercial as the next man, but you know it’s a popular image out there. Islay was nothing like that. He was firmly modern, and firmly whiggish. A lover of the classics, a genuine scholar, with a massive collection of books – his London home became known as ‘the library’. He was a trustee of the British Museum. He is the image of the 18th erudite lowland Scot of the ruling classes, of the coming generations of Adams, Hutchesons, Millars, Smiths, great names of the Scottish enlightenment. His reputation might be tarnished now, but around 1750 there’s a famous portrait of him by the Scottish artist Allan Ramsay what was one of the most popular prints in lowland Scottish homes. It’s of Islay in all his glory in his robes of judicial office. He was a dominant figure, a great man of the Scottish political nation.

Islay was right to be cynical; his position in Scotland is never very official. He does not acquire much by way of official ministries of state. But he does become Walpole’s political partner, and with his skill in managing both the Commons and royal patronage, Walpole places all the patronage available to the Crown in Scotland at Islay’s disposal.

Their objective, in the wake of the first 18 chaotic years of the Union, is in the minds of some, to bring Scotland to heel, make her governable. There is a much more positive and less cynical way to look at this though. Their objective is to bring stability to Scotland – stability will improve the lives of ordinary Scots. Stability will allow economic development and improvement and lead to the success of the union. It will make the siren call of Jacobite rebellion and civil war increasingly unattractive. And the measure of Toleration introduced in 1712 must be allowed to join with improvement and stability, to reduce the long standing and often harsh sectarianism of Scotland’s religious politics. This was a difficult one for the Presbyterians and Radical protestants of the south and south west Scotland to understand; the Campbells had always been associated with radical, Calvinist Protestantism. But in this new world, that was no longer true. Both brothers had put that tradition firmly behind them. They were no longer committed to the idea of a unitary, national presbyterian church.

So look. Islay and indeed the Whigs have been seen purely as cynical power players out to feather their own nests; and they were lovers of power no doubt. But they did have a positive vision for Scotland too. It is a vision that will, eventually, succeed and flourish to the greater benefit of Scotland, of England and of Wales. You heard it here.

Right but enough of that, back to the ways and means and the cynical exploitation of power. Scotland’s political system was particularly susceptible to the influence of patronage, even more than England and Wales. It was smaller, and the electorate was titchy tiny – about 13,000 of them. England and Wales were hardly a model of modern democracy, but the electorate was much larger and more complex and therefore more difficult to manipulate. Scotland’s burghs were often closed oligarchies – again very susceptible to influence and deals. Although based in London, Islay acquires himself leading men based in Scotland who hold offices of state there, through which his influence and control will flow. I will mention two. Duncan Forbes of Culloden, a lawyer from Inverness whose position in the Judiciary gave him great influence – a great lover of golf also by the way. But principally, Andrew Fletcher, nephew of Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, the great resister of incorporating Union, known as the Patriot. Well, the nephew of the Great Patriot, who became Lord Milton and head of the Criminal Judiciary in Scotland, would become one of the men who would slowly, slowly create the conditions that would yielded stability, growth and integration. He would be Islay’s fixer in Scotland, his adviser, eyes and ears.

There are problems with this narrative. The Jacobite MP George Lockhart of Carnwath is a voracious critic of the Hanoverian and unionist British state, and a popular commentator to whom many turn. And he makes a fair point when he complained that it was surely not right that Scotland should be so poorly represented in the great offices of the British state, and that the effective administration of Scotland should be delivered into the hands of the judiciary there. That is not a model that figures highly in the political writings of the enlightenment I don’t think. It’s not clean, open, democratic politics – though no Jacobite was a friend to democratic politics either let it be emphasised, ultimate power of the monarch was the Jacobite jam. But true enough, this is government by the back door.

The other problem with the narrative is the Highland Lowland thing. I have been carefully trying to make you aware that the old image held by lowland Scots and Scottish central government, of a violent and lawless Highland society which need the firm hand of control, did not reflect reality anymore and increasingly so. I have talked of the last clan battle being in 1688; that although the ability to raise warriors remained central to the honour of the clan chief, they were much more interested now in improving their income, the money earning ability of their estates, engaging in trade, accessing and celebrating European culture – which last had long, anyway, been a tradition of Highland and indeed Scottish society and intellectual life. The role of the tacksmen, traditionally one of raising the clan for war, was very different now. The tacksman was usually now much more of a managerial intermediary between chief and clan families. There was still a violent tradition, but often restricted to landless and lordless groups of young men, called caterans.

Trouble is that story would take a very long time to filter through; and let’s be honest, there is a history that does not help. Memories are long, Alasdair MacColla and Montrose the sack of Aberdeen, the Glencairn rebellion, the Jacobite risings of 1688, 1708, 1715, 1719. There is smoke, which does rather suggest fire to the casual observer, both in Scotland where it was of long standing now, and in England, where the Jacobite rebellions were beginning inculcate very similarly negative attitudes of fear and prejudice towards the Highlands.

Islay and Milton shared some of these prejudices as lowlanders; but worse, in order to maintain political influence, Islay would on occasion feel the need to show that he was not soft on lawlessness in the Highlands. Performative you might say rather than just. Much later he would be vilified, when in 1752 at the prosecution of a highlander James Stewart for murdering a Campbell, he spoke of

‘those barbarous cruelties and lawless oppressions practiced in the Highlands during several centuries’.

It’s not a sentiment that helps Islay’s reputation today.

So look, in summary, there’s a picture here. On the one hand, a power player in the game of British politics, prepared to accept English ascendency in the British state, widespread use of patronage to control appointments and civil administration In Scotland, through methods today we would see as deeply corrupt, an acceptance of old prejudices about Highland culture.

On the other hand Islay’s judicious and pragmatic rule bought stability, peace, and a measure of toleration and moderation to the policies of the British state; so close was Islay’s control of patronage, that he became known as ‘King of Scotland’. After the failure of the ’15, it was Islay who persuaded the retribution to be moderate and proportionate. He and his brother also persuaded the British government to pass an act, called the Act for More Effectually Securing the Peace of the Highlands in Scotland, as part of a programme of reform. The Act forbade the carrying of personal weapons in public places or the Lowlands, but also used the money from attainted rebel estates to re-invest in the economic development of the Highlands and there was a concerted attempt to build schools and improve education.[2] At the same time, fortresses such as the Ruthven Barracks at Kingussie were built, and in the 1720s and beyond there was the programme led by two Irish men. General Wade and William Caulfeild, of military roads. By 1767, they’d made 1500 miles of it.  I am told these roads were pretty useless for the purpose of combating the ’45 rebellion, and much of it not a lot of commercial use either, but that about 600s mile remained to bring improved communication to the highlands – an area notoriously difficult to navigate whether for military or commercial business.

In response to the Malt Tax riots, Islay’s work persuaded the British to establish the Board for Manufactures and Fisheries; this used the proceeds of the hated Malt Tax to be invested in Scotland to improve the linen, woollens and fisheries businesses in Scotland. It has some effect; the Linen industry began to show dramatic increases after 1740 in particular. As a general rule, Union had interested the English mainly for purposes of security, as we said at the time. Thereafter they showed little passion for Scotland  – but nor did they have any plans for exploitation.  In fact the British state was delighted to invest income from Scotland into Scotland. Only 15-20% of Scottish tax revenue left Scotland in the period; all the rest was re-invested into civil and military government within Scotland itself[3].

The other significant development may have come from the contact Islay had with the wildly innovative Scottish financier and banker in France, John Law, whose experiments with paper money would eventually come a dramatic and definitive cropper. But in 1727, Islay and Argyll were able to build support to use the proceeds of the Equivalent to set up the Royal Bank of Scotland. The equivalent you might remember, was the payment promised to Scotland as part of the Treaty of Union. This money did not then dribble into the pockets of corrupt lords would you believe – or not all of it any way, – but in creating a uniquely stable institution supported by a Royal Charter. The Royal Bank, in the words of historian Alexander Murdoch

‘would act as a powerful engine of Scottish economic development in the eighteenth century[4].’

Now look all of this needs putting in context. Scotland was indeed not high on the agenda of the British parliament; up to the fall of Walpole’s government in 1741 there were but 9 acts of parliament relating to Scotland. But I want you to remember that the Whig philosophy was absolutely not about intervention in a modern liberal idiom, not anywhere. Their stated and firm belief, across all of Britain, was to enable and empower private citizens to create their own wealth. The job of your Whig politician was to create the right conditions for this to happen; peace and stability at home and then get out of the way to open up trade internationally. To use the power of the state where it was required to promote British interest and their merchants to win at trade, and use the policies of mercantilism to skew the scales towards British merchants and shipping. This it what they believed would bring prosperity to Scotland as well as England, Ireland and Wales. This would be the basis of a strong Union.

Okally dokally, that’s the case for the defense. But do not believe for a moment that by the 1740s Scots were enthusiastic supporters of the union – I mean there were many who were but antipathy to the Union still ran deep. Jacobitism had been forced into the background by a discouraging international situation, but it was not dead, it was still vibrant, and a focus for those who opposed the Union. Which brings us to the captain of the Edinburgh Town Guard, one John Porteous in 1736.

John Porteous had the job of executing a convicted smuggler. Now for Edinburgh locals this was a symbol of all that was bad about the Union; all those hated duties and British excisemen. So they rioted and attempted to free said smuggler. Porteous ordered his men to fire on the rioting crowd, and shots were indeed fired. The mob were unhappy – understandably. As a result, the executive decision was reached by said mob to lynch Captain Porteous. And once lynched, to string him up and hang him by the neck until his feet stopped wiggling around.

Westminster was outraged and demanded action, which Islay and Argyll fought hard to mitigate again, well aware of the sensitivities here. But why should the Scots get away with such special treatment said the English MPs? So a draconian law of punishment was passed. Argyll was incensed at the stupidity of it all and the refusal of the English MPs to listen to the experts, and refused to co-operate anymore with this Argathelian alliance with Walpole. Islay looked terrible in Scotland – because he pragmatically stayed on board and therefore again looked like an English lackey. Of course, behind the scenes, Islay actually managed then to persuade Walpole not to implement most of the provisions of the act. Islay’s supporters therefore might well say that Islay was prepared to torch his public reputation for the greater good, unlike those glory boys of the Jacobite revolutions.

The damage however was done. Islay’s reputation at home was blighted, and his ability to influence events hampered. Argyll threw his toys out of the pram, and withdrew support from Walpole’s government. And this mattered, and not just in Scotland.

As the Duke, Argyll commanded the loyalty of most of the 45 Scottish MPs. Said MPs shared Argyll’s fury. They followed the older brother, not Islay. In the 1741 election, Walpole lost almost all the Scottish seats he had previously been able to command through the Argathelian brothers. At the same time came the defection of the Prince of Wales which coincidentally happened, and the disasters of the War of Jenkins’ Ear. A war Walpole had never wanted incidentally. All this was enough. Walpole won a vote of confidence by just 3 votes, and was forced to resign.

The Union was by no means safe therefore in 1741, despite a period of apparent peace. Government was once more in turmoil, the calming hand of Islay removed for a while, and in the East a new star was rising at the court of the Old Pretender. Charles Edward Stuart, a Bonnie lad by all accounts. And we will hear about him next time. And we will talk about the ’45, and Culloden.

[1] Devine, T: ‘The Scottish Nation, 1700-2000’, P21

[2] Stewart, L: ‘Union and Revolution’, p103

[3] Devine, T: ‘The Scottish Nation’, p55

[4] Murdoch, A: ‘ODNB Archibald Campbell’.

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