James Mackinnon.

The union of England and Scotland; a study of international history online

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an agreement for the better government of both kingdoms.
'Tis nothing but sheer nervousness, or secret Jacobitism, to talk
as if the Scots must apprehend every kind of injustice and
roguery on the part of England. All these " specious pre-
tences " and "plausible arguments" against surrendering the
birthright of Scotsmen are so many phrases to beget fears
and foment jealousies. Though never another Parliament
were to meet at Edinburgh, what's the loss, he asks, if
our laws and liberties be preserved in one elsewhere.f

* State of the Controversy bctu'ixt United and Separate Parliaments,
pp. 5, 6, 14.

t Scotland's Great Ad-vantages by an Union with England, shown in a
Letter from the Country to a Member of Parliament, pp. 8, u. The author
was William Seton, jr., of Pitmedden.


Beware, cries a third, how you invoke disunion by a
short-sighted patriotism, and provoke to bloodshed. Will
not the spectacle of two Protestant nations, drawing their
swords to perpetuate the animosities of centuries, be a
hideous commentary on their creed, the scoff of Rome, and
the delight of their enemies ? How can a federal union
consist with the traditional strife of party, which must
make the Scots Parliament an intolerable thorn in the side
of the sister federal state? If you fear that a British
Parliament will overturn your Church and alter your laws,
provide against these fears by inserting a clause into the
treaty that the United Parliament may not legislate any
alteration of Church government, without consent of the
General Assembly and the Scottish Estates. For such
purposes, let the Estates be allowed to exist for delibera-
tion, though not for legislation. It is pure folly to assume
that Englishmen shall have so little regard for the security
of their rights and liberties, as to strike a blow at those of
Scotland. In any case, does not the contravention of the
treaty relieve you from all obligations, and restore your
separate Parliament to resent the encroachment ? Even
with your Parliament, you will not be a whit better off, as
regards English influence on your affairs, than you now
are. That two Parliaments can work harmoniously in the
imposition of taxes, the settlement of peace or war, is
impossible in the eyes of the Trimmer, who already sees
the Union breaking in pieces, under so serious a strain.*

Both schemes of an incorporating and a federal union
are bad, argues another writer, who attempts to strike the
medium between the two. A general union, involving the
destruction of the constitutions of both kingdoms, "is no
more to be expected than the annihilation of this world,
and the resurrection of another ".f The second is too

* The Trimmer ; of, Sonic Necessary Cautions concerning the Union of
the Kingdoms of Scotland and England, pp. 4, 5.

f An Essay upon the Union of the Kingdoms of England and Scotland.
Sotners, Tracts, Vol. XII., pp. 5-10, 19.


precarious to be worth naming. Let the national laws.
Parliaments, and Churches remain, and for the rest, let
Scotland and England be as one country, in regard to
trade, peace and war, taxes, administration of revenue,
and general legislation. But how can an united Parliament
subsist by the side of two national ones? With perfect
facility. Let so many Scottish peers and commoners
be admitted to deliberate and vote on legislation that con-
cerns the United Kingdom. Retain the Scottish Parlia-
ment to legislate on purely Scottish affairs, and let a like
number of English commoners and peers be admitted to
see that this limitation is observed, but without the right
to vote. The presence of the English deputies in the
Parliament House will have two good results. It will
bring money to the Scottish capital and help to pro-
pagate a better temper between both peoples.

On the contrary, cries the earl of Cromartie, your
national Parliaments, and all the rest of your patriotic
shibboleths, are a snare and a source of division. " Unless
we be a part of each other, the union will be as a blood
puddin' to bind a cat that is, till one or the other be
hungry, and then the puddin' flyes. May wee be Brittains,
and down goe the old ignominious names of Scotland and
England. Scotland or England are words unknown in
our native language. England is a dishonourable name,
imposed on Brittain by Jutland pirates and mercenaries
usurping on their lords." *

The question formed the theme of sermons as well as of
letters and pamphlets. One preacher discoursed, at the
" Mercat " Cross of Edinburgh, to a popular audience, and
managed with great agility to wrest his text to yield an
exhortation in favour of incorporation. The heads of his
discourse were somewhat mundane. They embraced in-
creased trade, more work, and better pay. Our vigorous
preacher thumped federation out of the pulpit with little

* Cromartie Correspondence, II., 1-2.


ceremony. Even a federal union demanded an united
legislative assembly, as shown by the constitutions of
Holland and Switzerland. Think, he shouted, of the
enhanced power and influence by becoming part of a
mighty Parliament, where your representatives have a
share in the disposal of 6,000,000 of revenue, instead of
500,000. The style of our plain-spoken pulpiteer is
amusingly reminiscent of the Capuchin preacher in
Wallenstein, as he directs charge after charge of political
dogma on his hearers. " I have set before you to-day,"
he concludes, " on the one hand, industry and riches, on the
other, pride and poverty. I have not required a blind assent
to what I affirm. I have not opposed my opinion because
it is fashionable, or because such a lord, who is my friend and
patron, thinks so, or because Mess John, or Mess James, said
so, or because my drunken companions swear, Damn them,
it is so ! I deal with you as reasonable men, and have pur-
posely insisted on such arguments as are obvious to the
meanest understanding." *

We turn with quickened interest from the arguments,
with which these tracts bristle, to a letter which professes
to give an account of the reception of the treaty at the
Edinburgh street corners, and in the Edinburgh taverns.
After glancing at the preliminary parliamentary debates,
our correspondent pours out the phial of his unionist wrath
on the street corner politicians, who were filling the town
with their denunciations. " Never did wilful ignorance,f
contradictions, and inconsistencies triumph in our streets
at such an extravagant rate, as at this time, by reason of
the mistakes and misrepresentations that have been made
about it (the treaty). . . . Here you may find several
persons exalting an union of confederacy, and at the same

* A Sermon preached to the People at the Mcrcat Cross of Edinburgh on
the Subject of the Union, pp. 15-16.

t Letter to a Friend giving an Account of how the Treaty of Union has
been received here. It was written by John Clerk, jr., of Pennicuik.
Memoirs, p. 244.


time exclaiming against that article of the treaty concern-
ing equal duties, customs, and excises in both kingdoms, as
if there could be an union of confederacy, a communication
with the English in their trade, without equal burdens.
Some extol England for a wise nation, and yet at the
same time are arguing that a communication of trade
might be granted to us, without these burdens, as if the
English would make themselves notoriously remarkable
for folly and stupidity. . . . Others quarrell, amongst
other things, with the charges the nation will be put to in
sending up sixteen Peers and forty-five Commons to the
Parliament of Great Britain, and at the same time, both in
words and writings, they cry out against that number as a
small, dishonourable representation. Some are regretting
the extream poverty of the nation and scarcity of money ;
yet, notwithstanding, they exclaim against the Union as a
thing that will ruin us ; not considering that our case is
such, that 'tis scarce conceivable how any condition of life,
we can fall into, can render us more miserable and poor
than we are. For, 'tis well known, that many of us live
with difficulty, and many thousands of our nearest relations
are obliged to leave their country for want of bread and
employment. . . . Some are earnestly wishing a
sudden revolution, success to the affairs of France, and
confusion to the Presbyterian Government. But no sooner
they fall a speaking of the Union, but they regret the
danger of our civil Government, as having no security,
and cry for fasting, and praying that God may protect His
Church and defend His people. By which they give the
greatest evidence of atheism and prophanity that hell itself
can suggest. In a corner of the street you may see a
Presbyterian minister, a Popish priest, and an Episcopal
prelate, all agreeing together in their discourse against
the Union, but upon quite different views and contradictory
reasons. . . . Here you might likewise see the Dutch
and the French endeavour to wheedle us out of our senses
by the plausible, popular topic of liberty, property, sover-


eignty, and independency. The Dutch see they run a great
risk of being wormed out of their herring fishing, that most
valuable branch of their trade. The French, because of
that vast increase of power that will accrue to Brittain,
when united, whereby they will (with more justice than
now, when divided) be called the bulwark of the liberties
of Europe, and terror of the world." *

Fletcher was not found napping while discussions,^ so
pertinent to the welfare of the country, were raging in the
taverns, or the street corner. He measured swords, not
merely with his fellow-legislators on the floor of Parliament
House, but with supercilious English aristocrats, like Sir
Edward Seymour. He was walking one day in December,
1703, he tells us, in the Mall, when he was overtaken by
the earl of Cromartie and Sir Christopher Musgrave. The
earl invited him to dine with him at his rooms. A political
discussion, in which Sir Edward, who afterwards joined
the party, took part, ensued. Fletcher soon broached his
patriotic theme, and defended his scheme of limitations
against Sir Edward's insolent irony, and my lord
Cromartie's cautious objections. The earl ventured to
suggest a remedy, in incorporation, for the disadvantages
under which Scotland had laboured since the Union of the

* Pp. 5-H.

t Among other pamphlets in which these arguments occur, the follow-
ing deserve mention: Trialogns ; a Conference betwixt Mr. Con., Mr.
Pro, and Mr. Indifferent, concerning the Union. Letter from Mr. Scrupulous
to Trialogus concerning the Union. An Answer to some Queries relating to
the Union, in a Conference betwixt a Coffeemaster and a Country Farmer.
T/ic Smoking Flare unquenchable, where the Union betwixt the Two
Kingdoms is dissicated, anatomised, confuted, and annuled. The Testa-
mentary Duty of the Parliament of Scotland with a View to the Treaty of
Union. The Comicall History of the Marriage betwixt Fergusia and
Hcptarchits. Lawful Prejudices against an Incorporating Union with
England. These and others, bound in two volumes, entitled Tracts on the
Union. Others in Somers' Tracts, Vol. XII.

I An Account of a Conversation concerning a Right Regulation of
Governments for the Common Good of Mankind, in a Letter to the Marquis of
Montrose, the Earls of Rot lies, Roxburgh, and H adding ton. From London,
the ist December, 1703.


Crowns. " Not so much for the grievances of Scotland,"
replied Fletcher, " as for the drawbacks, which England
wishes to remove solely in her own interest." To prove
this, he takes a glance at the international relations of the
last half-century. England, he insists, has always suggested
union merely in the hope of amusing the Scots, when she
apprehended any danger or inconvenience from Scottish
legislation. Union, he contends, can only aggravate the
bane of Scottish poverty. "How, I pray?" inquires the earl.
" Because," returns Fletcher, " Scotsmen will then spend in
England ten times more than they now do. Besides the
sums carried out of Scotland by Scottish members of
Parliament to the English capital, all the gentry will take
up their residence in London, as does that of Ireland
already. Scots in search of fortune, or public employment,
will become aliens to their country, and if they come to
great wealth will purchase lands in England. Increase of
trade is nothing but a visionary supposition." " But,"
objects his opponent, "you talk as if Scotland is to
remain a separate nation, and the Union will create
one country of Great Britain, with general benefit to
the whole." " On the contrary," replies Fletcher, " Scot-
land, in making a bargain, ought to have regard to
what gain or loss will result to her individually from
it. If there is a probability that Scotland, as remote
from the seat of Government, will be liable to suffer
from the drain on her wealth and people southwards,
is she justified in sacrificing her interests for the shadowy
promise of future returns ? Remove the English influence
on Scottish affairs, and cut off the inducement to frequent the
English Court, and the main cause of Scottish depression will
be eradicated. For we shall then be possessed of liberty,
and be free from the corruption of a Court. We shall
have the certain and constant alliance of a powerful nation,
of the same language, religion, and government, lying be-
tween us and all enemies, both by sea and land, and
obliged in interest to keep perpetual peace and amity with


us." * "But the wealth of the United Kingdom will circulate
to all parts of it," contended his lordship. " Why, then, has
it not circulated to Wales, which has been united to Eng-
land these four hundred years ? No, no, the only outcome
of free trade must be the ruin of Scottish manufactures
by English competition. Has not England shown in her
dealings with Ireland, with which incorporation has actually
taken place, under the name of conquest, a jealous par-
tiality for maintaining her interests, at the expense of those
of the Irish ? May not Scotland expect the same fate, if
after the union the Government should seek to deprive
her of the so-called privileges union is to bring ? " " But it
shall certainly be our interest," interrupted Sir Christopher,
" to observe the conditions on which we unite with Scot-
land." " Do you think," asked Fletcher, " that you always
follow your interest ? Has the union temper been charac-
teristic of Englishmen in their treatment of their own
Colonies, and the countries they have conquered ? The
scandal of the English treatment of Scotland is known
but too well to all Europe." This was too much for Sir
Edward's keen temper. " What a pother is here about an
union with Scotland," cried he, " of which all the advan-
tages we shall have will be no more than what a man
gets by marrying a beggar a louse for his portion." "If
these words had been spoken in the House of Commons,"
retorted Fletcher, addressing the earl and Sir Christopher,
" I might not take notice of them, or question his freedom
of speech in that place ; but since he is pleased to express
himself after this manner in a private conversation, I shall
likewise take the liberty to say that I wonder he is not
afraid such language should make us suspect him not to
be descended of the noble family, whose name he bears."
" What account," shouted Sir Edward, in a furious passion,
" should we make of Scotland, so often trampled under
foot by our armies ? Did not Protector Somerset at the
battle of Musselborough, give you such a rout as destroyed

* Works, p. 399.


the best part of your nobility and gentry ? And of late
years, did not the very scum of our nation conquer
you?" "Yes!" retorted Fletcher, "after they had, with
our assistance, conquered the king, and the nobility, and
the gentry of England ; and yet that which you call a
conquest was a dispute between parties and not a national
quarrel." " 'Twas," said Sir Edward, " inseparable from
the fortune of our Edwards to triumph over your nation."
" Do you mean Edward of Carnarvon," asked Fletcher,
" and his rout at Bannockburn ? " " No," returned the
other, " I mean Edward the First and Third, whose heroic
actions no princes have ever equalled." " Sure," said his
opponent, " you do not mean the honour of the first, or
the humanity of the third, so signally manifested at Ber-
wick, in the murder of Wallis by the first Edward, or the
poisoning of Randolph, earl of Murray, by the third, after
they had both refused to give battle to these heroes." Sir
Christopher, whose grave temper could not brook these
mutual reproaches, interrupted, and invited Fletcher to
explain himself further touching an union between Eng-
land and Ireland.* The argument then diverged into an
attempt, on Fletcher's part, to illustrate the injustice and
selfishness of the English repression of Irish trade, and on
that of Sir Christopher, to defend the fairness and pru-
dence of English commercial policy. It wandered further
afield into a general discussion of the methods of govern-
ment best fitted to maintain harmony among the European
nations, which Fletcher found in a scheme of ten federa-
tions, actuated by the principles of justice, and not swayed
by the personal ambition of princes. It concluded with
a demonstration that multiplicity of administrations is
preferable to centralisation, on the ground that it tends to
the increase and just division of trade. Therefore, argues
Fletcher, let the Parliament of Scotland be preserved.

This review of the controversy that raged in both
capitals, and drew both countries into its vortex, will

* Works, pp. 411-413.


enable the reader to form a notion of the arguments with
which logic, ingenuity, patriotism, and fear, assailed or
defended the proposals of the commissioners. On either
side, they are the arguments of partisans, who could not
be expected to surmount the influences of the time. The
historian who attempts to occupy the place of judge, will
prefer to postpone passing sentence on the contentions of
the disputants, until he has inquired how far the result has
justified or exploded them. Be it, in the meantime, re-
marked, that the scruples of the patriotic opponents of
union are intelligible, when we consider the magnitude of
the sacrifices they were called on to make. To surrender
government, Parliament, and independence, might well
seem to men, who had inherited a free constitution, and
who felt the rancour of international friction, a betrayal
of their highest interests. Posterity must sympathise with
their demand, that before this surrender was made, Parlia-
ment should be invested with the decisive authority of the
electors. A question so momentous ought to have been
directly submitted to the wisdom of the nation, as well as
its representatives. After the negotiations of the com-
missioners were finished, if not before, a new election was
indispensable, if the measure was to be handed down to
posterity, with the indubitable sanction of both nations.
The fact that it was hurried through the Scottish Parlia-
ment, as if to outwit and ignore the country, is an objec-
tionable feature of the unionist tactics. That incorporation
was inevitable, in view of the English ultimatum, may be
admitted. Both commissioners and Parliament might
fairly claim to have acted under a sense of public duty. But
those who argued that " a complete union " necessarily
involved incorporation had not duly looked at all sides of
the question. What was there to hinder Scotland from
identifying its international and foreign interests to the
fullest extent with those of England, and yet retaining its
own Parliament for the transaction of purely Scottish
business? That a British Parliament was not inconsistent


with two national Legislatures has been proved by the
history of Germany and Austria, or, to keep within our
own empire, by that of the British Colonies. Probably no
one at this time of day will hazard the assertion that a
Reichstag, with subordinate local Legislatures, would not
have served the purpose of " a complete union " equally
well, if not better. All the interests of the United
Kingdom, as such, would still have been under the control
of the united Parliament ; while national questions relating
to the distinctive institutions of each to the Church, to
education, to judicature, to municipal government, etc.,
which even an incorporating union left intact might have
been delegated to the national Legislatures. The fact is
that incorporation was one of those words which are made
to do duty in political controversy to signify what they do
not really mean. It was absolutely impossible, under the
circumstances, and it has not even yet taken place.
Reservations were unavoidable, and are still unavoidable.
To incorporate the Scottish legal and ecclesiastical systems
with those of England was, and still is, out of the question.
Why not also except the Scottish Parliament ? The
answer is, as the Scottish commissioners discovered at the
outset, that England was determined not to have it so.
Her statesmen feared the risks of a national legislative
assembly sitting at Edinburgh, and thought it expedient
for the interest of England to abolish it. But, in coming
to this conclusion, they were swayed rather by the
memories of the past, than by considerations as to the
future. Expediency suggested that it would be well to
get rid of what had been accounted a standing danger to
the stability of international peace and the harmony of
international policy. There is nothing to show that
the maintenance of the Scottish Parliament would have
proved a danger to the stability of the one, or the
harmony of the other. The small Jacobite element
would have lost its dangerous importance had the as-
pirations of Scotland been reasonably satisfied, and the


possibility of continuing its intrigues, under false pretences,
removed. As it was, the abolition of the Parliament did
not prevent three subsequent attempts at rebellion. Pro-
bably its suppression made them possible, and enabled
them to assume the semblance of revolution. On the
other hand, the advocates of the preservation of the
Scottish Parliament seem to argue from the thesis that
Scotland alone was being summoned to surrender its
Constitution. They forgot that England likewise offered
to give up its distinctive Parliament in favour of an united
Constitution, and that, in this respect, the sacrifice was
mutual, though greater for Scotland. The fact that
incorporation was an English proposal, and indeed an
English ultimatum, seemed to its Scottish opponents to
give it the aspect of a manoeuvre of English statesmen
against the sovereignty and independence of their country.
In regard to the other main contention, discernible
through the maze of this controversy, viz., whether the
advantages of the so-called incorporation outweighed its
disadvantages, it is evident that Defoe came nearer being
a true prophet, than either a Fletcher or a Hodges. His
sagacity in predicting the wave of advancing wealth that
was to replenish impoverished Scotland is as striking, as
the shortsightedness of his adversaries, in foretelling the
ruin that appalled their imagination, is singular. Pros-
perity did not, it is true, come so speedily as was predicted.
But it came ultimately. This part of the patriotic argu-
ment broke down entirely, as we shall see, when we come
to survey the beneficial effects of the Union on the pros-
perity of Scotland. The same will ultimately have to be
said of many of these apprehensions based on suspicion of
English honour, whether on political, ecclesiastical, or
commercial grounds. Looking at this heated controversy
in the light of the future, we are forced to admit that, on
the national side, prejudice was largely made to take the
place of argument, while we can easily perceive and make
allowance for the reasons of such prejudice.




BEFORE directing attention to the debates in the Parlia-
ment House, let us cast a glance at the attitude of parties,
in order the better to understand the exciting scenes, about

Online LibraryJames MackinnonThe union of England and Scotland; a study of international history → online text (page 24 of 51)