Space does not permit an account of the assimilation of Scotland to England in the years between the Forty-five and our own time: moreover, the history of this age cannot well be written without a dangerously close approach to many “burning questions” of our day. The History of the Highlands, from 1752 to the emigrations witnessed by Dr Johnson (1760-1780), and of the later evictions in the interests of sheep farms and deer forests, has never been studied as it ought to be in the rich manuscript materials which are easily accessible. The great literary Renaissance of Scotland, from 1745 to the death of Sir Walter Scott; the years of Hume, a pioneer in philosophy and in history, and of the Rev. Principal Robertson (with him and Hume, Gibbon professed, very modestly, that he did not rank); the times of Adam Smith, of Burns, and of Sir Walter, not to speak of the Rev. John Home, that foremost tragic poet, may be studied in many a history of literature. According to Voltaire, Scotland led the world in all studies, from metaphysics to gardening. We think of Watt, and add engineering.
The brief and inglorious administration of the Earl of Bute at once gave openings in the public service to Scots of ability, and excited that English hatred of these northern rivals which glows in Churchill’s ‘Satires,’ while this English jealousy aroused that Scottish hatred of England which is the one passion that disturbs the placid letters of David Hume.
The later alliance of Pitt with Henry Dundas made Dundas far more powerful than any Secretary for Scotland had been since Lauderdale, and confirmed the connection of Scotland with the services in India. But, politically, Scotland, till the Reform Bill, had scarcely a recognisable existence. The electorate was tiny, and great landholders controlled the votes, whether genuine or created by legal fiction—“faggot votes.” Municipal administration in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was terribly corrupt, and reform was demanded, but the French Revolution, producing associations of Friends of the People, who were prosecuted and grievously punished in trials for sedition, did not afford a fortunate moment for peaceful reforms.
But early in the nineteenth century Jeffrey, editor of ‘The Edinburgh Review,’ made it the organ of Liberalism, and no less potent in England than in Scotland; while Scott, on the Tory side, led a following of Scottish penmen across the Border in the service of ‘The Quarterly Review.’ With ‘Blackwood’s Magazine’ and Wilson, Hogg, and Lockhart; with Jeffrey and ‘The Edinburgh,’ the Scottish metropolis almost rivalled London as the literary capital.
About 1818 Lockhart recognised the superiority of the Whig wits in literature; but against them all Scott is a more than sufficient set-off. The years of stress between Waterloo (1815) and the Reform Bill (1832) made Radicalism (fostered by economic causes, the enormous commercial and industrial growth, and the unequal distribution of its rewards) perhaps even more pronounced north than south of the Tweed. In 1820 “the Radical war” led to actual encounters between the yeomanry and the people. The ruffianism of the Tory paper ‘The Beacon’ caused one fatal duel, and was within an inch of leading to another, in which a person of the very highest consequence would have “gone on the sod.” For the Reform Bill the mass of Scottish opinion, so long not really represented at all, was as eager as for the Covenant. So triumphant was the first Whig or Radical majority under the new system, that Jeffrey, the Whig pontiff, perceived that the real struggle was to be “between property and no property,” between Capital and Socialism. This circumstance had always been perfectly clear to Scott and the Tories.
The watchword of the eighteenth century in literature, religion, and politics had been “no enthusiasm.” But throughout the century, since 1740, “enthusiasm,” “the return to nature,” had gradually conquered till the rise of the Romantic school with Coleridge and Scott. In religion the enthusiastic movement of the Wesleys had altered the face of the Church in England, while in Scotland the “Moderates” had lost position, and “zeal” or enthusiasm pervaded the Kirk. The question of lay patronage of livings had passed through many phases since Knox wrote, “It pertaineth to the people, and to every several congregation, to elect their minister.” In 1833, immediately after the passing of the Reform Bill, the return to the primitive Knoxian rule was advocated by the “Evangelical” or “High Flying” opponents of the Moderates. Dr Chalmers, a most eloquent person, whom Scott regarded as truly a man of genius, was the leader of the movement. The Veto Act, by which the votes of a majority of heads of families were to be fatal to the claims of a patron’s presentee, had been passed by the General Assembly; it was contrary to Queen Anne’s Patronage Act of 1711,—a measure carried, contrary to Harley’s policy, by a coalition of English Churchmen and Scottish Jacobite members of Parliament. The rejection, under the Veto Act, of a presentee by the church of Auchterarder, was declared illegal by the Court of Session and the judges in the House of Lords (May 1839); the Strathbogie imbroglio, “with two Presbyteries, one taking its orders from the Court of Session, the other from the General Assembly” (1837-1841), brought the Assembly into direct conflict with the law of the land. Dr Chalmers would not allow the spiritual claims of the Kirk to be suppressed by the State. “King Christ’s Crown Honours” were once more in question. On May 18, 1843, the followers of the principles of Knox and Andrew Melville marched out of the Assembly into Tanfield Hall, and made Dr Chalmers Moderator, and themselves “The Free Church of Scotland.” In 1847 the hitherto separated synods of various dissenting bodies came together as United Presbyterians, and in 1902 they united with the Free Church as “the United Free Church,” while a small minority, mainly Highland, of the former Free Church, now retains that title, and apparently represents Knoxian ideals. Thus the Knoxian ideals have modified, even to this day, the ecclesiastical life of Scotland, while the Church of James I., never by persecution extinguished (nec tamen consumebatur), has continued to exist and develop, perhaps more in consequence of love of the Liturgy than from any other cause.
Meanwhile, and not least in the United Free Church, extreme tenacity of dogma has yielded place to very advanced Biblical criticism; and Knox, could he revisit Scotland with all his old opinions, might not be wholly satisfied by the changes wrought in the course of more than three centuries. The Scottish universities, discouraged and almost destitute of pious benefactors since the end of the sixteenth century, have profited by the increase of wealth and a comparatively recent outburst of generosity. They always provided the cheapest, and now they provide the cheapest and most efficient education that is offered by any homes of learning of mediæval foundation.