The Act of Union didn’t just simply appear in 1707 as a means of bailing out Scotland from the results of the disastrous Darien adventure, much as the British Historians would like us to believe.
Unfortunately that story has been spun so much over the years that even a lot of Scots believe it. As I clearly pointed out in a previous article that story is disingenuous to say the least.
No wonder we were never taught Scottish History in school, but rather English History or the Vikings. The truth of the matter from a Scots perspective is entirely different, but that truth is a dangerous instrument to the British State.
Nor did the act of Union come about because of the simple assertion made by Rabbie Burns about a parcel of rogues in a Nation, although that is true, it doesn’t go far enough in the telling.
It is true to say that the majority of Scottish Lords voted for it because they were bribed, and many thought to make good the losses they had made in the Darien venture.
Scotland was to be paid a sum of money called ‘the equivalent’, this was to make up for Scotland bailing England out for the massive debts England had built up through their many wars. England was Bankrupt, not Scotland.
But these idiot Lords never even got that right, because while they pocketed the money due to Scotland for themselves, they only ever received half of it. They were well and truly conned.
The Duke of Queensberry was due to pocket half the amount for himself because he was the one who made it all come to pass.
It didn’t all begin with these rogues though…Our Stewart Monarchs were at the root of it.
On his accession to the English throne in 1603 King James announced his intention to unite his two realms. James used his Royal prerogative powers to take the style of ‘King of Great Britain’ and to give an explicitly British character to his court and person. Whilst James assumed the creation of a full union was a foregone conclusion, In the meantime, James declared that Great Britain be viewed ‘as presently united, and as one realm and kingdom, and the subjects of both realms as one people’
He was forced to drop that idea, but it didn’t go away.
In the early 1700s, with Queen Anne on the throne, she tried on three occasions to get the Scots to agree, and every time the Scottish Parliament said No.
But this Stewart Monarch was determined to get her way, and with her court in England being ruled by her English Lords, they pushed for it too. Not just because of England’s economic state, but because Anne was childless and they wanted a protestant Hanoverian Monarch when she popped her clogs,and Scotland said no, we will choose our own Monarch.
With the Darien Misadventure which was as much down to the English reneging on a deal with Scotland, and encouraging the Spaniards to clear the Scots out, and denying the Scots any assistance, not even water, they had their instrument to bribe those Scots who had lost money in it.
At this point in time,they sent Robinson Crusoe author Daniel Defoe to Scotland to Spy on the Scots and create disruption, which he did very well with his pamphlets.
Consider pamphlets to be an early form of Facebook and Twitter Spin, and Defoe to be a latter day Tony Blair.
In these days we only had two parties, One was the Court party which represented Queen Anne and had most of those who had got themselves caught up in Darien, and were thus pro Union.
The other party was the Country party and was anti Union.
Ordinary folks had no say, and no vote or representation with either.
They could petition to be heard,and they rioted! They rioted so badly that when the Union was agreed, Martial Law had to be enforced to stop them.
However, prior to that the Country party had tried greatly to delay the considerations in order to allow time for ALL the people to discuss the treaty fully. On the same day a Hot Debate erupted about whether or not the Parliament without particular instructions from their constituents could alter the nations constitution. Anti Union speakers argued that ‘In a matter of such weight…it will be fruitless of parliament to institute debate without first consulting the people’
79 petitions carrying 20,000 signatures were made against the Union from Burghs and Merchants and representing the middle classes were made to the parliament between 1706 and 1707, with no petitions for the Union.
Unfortunately despite the overwhelming opposition to the Union from the populace, the Court Party had its way by means of majority in the parliament and Scotland was sold out.
But that was not the worst of it…The Duke of Hamilton who had staunchly fought against it, and was popular with the people is thought to have secretly caused the most damage, a bribe has been suggested though never proven.
When it came time to choose who would negotiate for Scotland, he moved a motion in a near empty parliament when most had gone home that the Court party should provide the Commissioners to negotiate.
Given that they were all in the English pockets, the 31 commissioners on the Scots side were all bar one in favour of the Union.
Scotland had nobody negotiating the terms so the English could choose all the terms. Thus Scotland ended up with only 45mps against more than 500 English Mps in the UK parliament, one more than Cornwall. They also had less Lords in the House of Lords than the Church of England had Bishops.
A year or so later in Westmister one of the Scottish Lords tried to get a bill through annulling the Union but it easily got talked out of time with the weight of English numbers.
A number of years later
The Scottish example of preserving constitutional integrity was not unique in the eighteenth century, when debates over the “conditions of union” took place in many forums across Europe,71 but the Scottish experience had special resonance among British North Americans. Benjamin Franklin, who had visited Scotland in 1759 at the height of the militia dispute, raised the problem of unequal constitutional status in 1776, when he discussed plans for union that gave more power to larger states: “I hear many ingenious arguments to persuade us that an unequal representation is a good thing. If we were born and bred under an unequal representation, we might bear it; but to set out with an unequal representation is unreasonable. It is said that the great Colonies will swallow up the less. Scot-land said the same thing at the union.”