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Timeline of Scottish History

A timeline of events in Scottish History!. Scroll through a growing chronology of events and click on them for more details and links

1700-1710 Act of Union

The Scottish Parliament was not dissolved at William’s death, nor did it meet at the time when, legally, it ought to have met.  Anne, in a message, expressed hopes that it would assent to Union, and promised to concur in any reasonable scheme for compensating the losers by the Darien scheme.  When Parliament met, Queensberry, being Commissioner, soon found it necessary (June 30, 1702) to adjourn.  New officers of State were then appointed, and there was a futile meeting between English and Scottish Commissioners chosen by the Queen to consider the Union.

Then came a General Election (1703), which gave birth to the last Scottish Parliament.  The Commissioner, Queensberry, and the other officers of State, “the Court party,” were of course for Union; among them was prominent that wavering Earl of Mar who was so active in promoting the Union, and later precipitated the Jacobite rising of 1715.  There were in Parliament the party of Courtiers, friends of England and Union; the party of Cavaliers, that is Jacobites; and the Country party, led by the Duke of Hamilton, who was in touch with the Jacobites, but was quite untrustworthy, and much suspected of desiring the Crown of Scotland for himself.

Queensberry cozened the Cavaliers—by promises of tolerating their Episcopalian religion—into voting a Bill recognising Anne, and then broke his promise.  The Bill for tolerating worship as practised by the Episcopalians was dropped; for the Commissioner of the General Assembly of the Kirk declared that such toleration was “the establishment of iniquity by law.”

Queensberry’s one aim was to get Supply (which enabled the government to levy taxes for the purpose of paying for a war) voted, for war with France had begun.  But the Country and the Cavalier parties refused Supply till an Act of Security for religion, liberty, law, and trade should be passed.  The majority decided that, on the death of Anne, the Estates should name as king of Scotland a Protestant representative of the House of Stewart, who should not be the successor to the English crown, save under conditions guaranteeing Scotland as a sovereign state, with frequent Parliaments, and security for Scottish navigation, colonies, trade, and religion (the Act of Security).

It was also decided that landholders and the burghs should drill and arm their tenants and dependants—if Protestant.  Queensberry refused to pass this Act of Security; Supply, on the other side, was denied, and after a stormy scene Queensberry prorogued Parliament (September 16, 1703).

In the excitement, Atholl had deserted the Court party and voted with the majority.  He had a great Highland following, he might throw it on the Jacobite side, and the infamous intriguer, Simon Fraser (the Lord Lovat of 1745), came over from France and betrayed to Queensberry a real or a feigned intrigue of Atholl with France and with the Ministers of James VIII., called “The Pretender.”

Atholl was the enemy of Fraser, a canting, astute, and unscrupulous ruffian.  Queensberry conceived that in a letter given to him by Lovat he had irrefutable evidence against Atholl as a conspirator, and he allowed Lovat to return to France, where he was promptly imprisoned as a traitor.  Atholl convinced Anne of his own innocence, and Queensberry fell under ridicule and suspicion, lost his office of Commissioner, and was superseded by Tweeddale.  In England the whole complex affair of Lovat’s revelations was known as “The Scottish Plot”; Hamilton was involved, or feared he might be involved, and therefore favoured the new proposals of the Courtiers and English party for placing limits on the prerogative of Anne’s successor, whoever he might be.

In the Estates (July 1704), after months passed in constitutional chicanery, the last year’s Act of Security was passed and touched with the sceptre; and the House voted Supply for six months.  But owing to a fierce dispute on private business—namely, the raising of the question, “Who were the persons accused in England of being engaged in the ‘Scottish Plot’?”—no hint of listening to proposals for Union was uttered.  Who could propose, as Commissioners to arrange Union, men who were involved—or in England had been accused of being involved—in the plot?  Scotland had not yet consented that whoever succeeded Anne in England should also succeed in Scotland.  They retained a means of putting pressure on England, the threat of having a separate king; they had made and were making military preparations (drill once a-month!), and England took up the gauntlet.  The menacing attitude of Scotland was debated on with much heat in the English Upper House (November 29), and a Bill passed by the Commons declared the retaliatory measures which England was ready to adopt.

It was at once proved that England could put a much harder pinch on Scotland than Scotland could inflict on England.  Scottish drovers were no longer to sell cattle south of the Border, Scottish ships trading with France were to be seized, Scottish coals and linen were to be excluded, and regiments of regular troops were to be sent to the Border if Scotland did not accept the Hanoverian succession before Christmas 1705.  If it came to war, Scotland could expect no help from her ancient ally, France, unless she raised the standard of King James.  As he was a Catholic, the Kirk would prohibit this measure, so it was perfectly clear to every plain man that Scotland must accept the Union and make the best bargain she could.

In spring 1705 the new Duke of Argyll, “Red John of the Battles,” a man of the sword and an accomplished orator, was made Commissioner, and, of course, favoured the Union, as did Queensberry and the other officers of State.  Friction between the two countries arose in spring, when an Edinburgh jury convicted, and the mob insisted on the execution of, an English Captain Green, whose ship, the Worcester, had been seized in the Forth by Roderick Mackenzie, Secretary of the Scottish East India Company.  Green was supposed to have captured and destroyed a ship of the Company’s, the Speedy Return, which never did return.  It was not proved that this ship had been Green’s victim, but that he had committed acts of piracy is certain.  The hanging of Green increased the animosity of the sister kingdoms.

When Parliament met, June 28, 1705, it was a parliament of groups.  Tweeddale and others, turned out of office in favour of Argyll’s Government, formed the Flying Squadron (Squadrone volante), voting in whatever way would most annoy the Government.  Argyll opened by proposing, as did the Queen’s Message, the instant discussion of the Union (July 3).  The House preferred to deliberate on anything else, and the leader of the Jacobites or Cavaliers, Lockhart of Carnwath, a very able sardonic man, saw that this was, for Jacobite ends, a tactical error.  The more time was expended the more chance had Queensberry to win votes for the Union.  Fletcher of Saltoun, an independent and eloquent patriot and republican, wasted time by impossible proposals.  Hamilton brought forward, and by only two votes lost, a proposal which England would never have dreamed of accepting.  Canny Jacobites, however, abstained from voting, and thence Lockhart dates the ruin of his country.  Supply, at all events, was granted, and on that Argyll adjourned.  The queen was to select Commissioners of both countries to negotiate the Treaty of Union; among the Commissioners Lockhart was the only Cavalier, and he was merely to watch the case in the Jacobite interest.

The meetings of the two sets of Commissioners began at Whitehall on April 16.  It was arranged that all proposals, modifications, and results should pass in writing, and secrecy was to be complete.

The Scots desired Union with Home Rule, with a separate Parliament.  The English would negotiate only on the lines that the Union was to be complete, “incorporating,” with one Parliament for both peoples.  By April 25, 1706, the Scots Commissioners saw that on this point they must acquiesce; the defeat of the French at Ramilies (May 23) proved that, even if they could have leaned on the French, France was a broken reed.  International reciprocity in trade, complete freedom of trade at home and abroad, they did obtain.

As England, thanks to William III. with his incessant Continental wars, had already a great National debt, of which Scotland owed nothing, and as taxation in England was high, while Scottish taxes under the Union would rise to the same level, and to compensate for the Darien losses, the English granted a pecuniary “Equivalent” (May 10).  They also did not raise the Scottish taxes on windows, lights, coal, malt, and salt to the English level, that of war-taxation.  The Equivalent was to purchase the Scottish shares in the East India Company, with interest at five per cent up to May 1, 1707.  That grievance of the shareholders was thus healed, what public debt Scotland owed was to be paid (the Equivalent was about £400,000), and any part of the money unspent was to be given to improve fisheries and manufactures.

The number of Scottish members of the British Parliament was fixed at forty-five.  On this point the Scots felt that they were hardly used; the number of their elected representatives of peers in the Lords was sixteen.  Scotland retained her Courts of Law; the feudal jurisdictions which gave to Argyll and others almost princely powers were retained, and Scottish procedure in trials continued to vary much from the English model.  Appeals from the Court of Session had previously been brought before the Parliament of Scotland; henceforth they were to be heard by the Judges, Scots and English, in the British House of Lords.  On July 23, 1706, the treaty was completed; on October 3 the Scottish Parliament met to debate on it, with Queensberry as Commissioner.  Harley, the English Minister, sent down the author of ‘Robinson Crusoe’ to watch, spy, argue, persuade, and secretly report, and De Foe’s letters contain the history of the session.

Treaty of Union 1707

The parties in Parliament were thus variously disposed: the Cavaliers, including Hamilton, had been approached by Louis XIV. and King James (the Pretender), but had not committed themselves.  Queensberry always knew every risky step taken by Hamilton, who began to take several, but in each case received a friendly warning which he dared not disregard.  At the opposite pole, the Cameronians and other extreme Presbyterians loathed the Union, and at last (November-December) a scheme for the Cameronians and the clans of Angus and Perthshire to meet in arms in Edinburgh and clear out the Parliament caused much alarm.  But Hamilton, before the arrangement came to a head, was terrorised, and the intentions of the Cameronians, as far as their records prove, had never been officially ratified by their leaders. {250}  There was plenty of popular rioting during the session, but Argyll rode into Edinburgh at the head of the Horse Guards, and Leven held all the gates with drafts from the garrison of the castle.  The Commissioners of the General Assembly made protests on various points, but were pacified after the security of the Kirk had been guaranteed.  Finally, Hamilton prepared a parliamentary mine, which would have blown the Treaty of Union sky-high, but on the night when he should have appeared in the House and set the match to his petard—he had toothache!  This was the third occasion on which he had deserted the Cavaliers; the Opposition fell to pieces.  The Squadrone volante and the majority of the peers supported the Bill, which was passed.  On January 16, 1707, the Treaty of Union was touched with the sceptre, “and there is the end of an auld sang,” said Seafield.  In May 1707 a solemn service was held at St Paul’s to commemorate the Union.

There was much friction in the first year of the Union over excisemen and tax-collectors: smuggling began to be a recognised profession.  Meanwhile, since 1707, a Colonel Hooke had been acting in Scotland, nominally in Jacobite, really rather in French interests.  Hooke’s intrigues were in part betrayed by De Foe’s agent, Ker of Kersland, an amusingly impudent knave, and were thwarted by jealousies of Argyll and Hamilton.  By deceptive promises (for he was himself deceived into expecting the aid of the Ulster Protestants) Hooke induced Louis XIV. to send five men-of-war, twenty-one frigates, and only two transports, to land James in Scotland (March 1708).  The equinoctial gales and the severe illness of James, who insisted on sailing, delayed the start; the men on the outlook for the fleet were intoxicated, and Forbin, the French commander, observing English ships of war coming towards the Firth of Forth, fled, refusing James’s urgent entreaties to be landed anywhere on the coast (March 24).  It was believed that had he landed only with a valet the discontented country would have risen for their native king.

In Parliament (1710-1711) the Cavalier Scottish members, by Tory support, secured the release from prison of a Rev. Mr Greenshields, an Episcopalian who prayed for Queen Anne, indeed, but had used the liturgy.  The preachers were also galled by the imposition on them of an abjuration oath, compelling them to pray for prelatical Queen Anne.  Lay patronage of livings was also restored (1712) after many vicissitudes, and this thorn rankled in the Kirk, causing ever-widening strife for more than a century.

The imposition of a malt tax produced so much discontent that even Argyll, with all the Scottish members of Parliament, was eager for the repeal of the Act of Union, and proposed it in the House of Peers, when it was defeated by a small majority.  In 1712, when about to start on a mission to France, Hamilton was slain in a duel by Lord Mohun.  According to a statement of Lockhart’s, “Cavaliers were to look for the best” from Hamilton’s mission: it is fairly clear that he was to bring over James in disguise to England, as in Thackeray’s novel, ‘Esmond.’  But the sword of Mohun broke the Jacobite plans.  Other hopes expired when Bolingbroke and Harley quarrelled, and Queen Anne died (August 1, 1714).  “The best cause in Europe was lost,” cried Bishop Atterbury, “for want of spirit.”  He would have proclaimed James as king, but no man supported him, and the Elector of Hanover, George I., peacefully accepted the throne.

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