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January 17th 1707

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The Union with England

There were no doubt sound economic arguments to be made in favour of a Union between Scotland and England. There were military arguments too (The possibilities of permanent peace between the two countries was a big attraction for the English who were embroiled in continental wars.) But these reasons did little to persuade the people of Scotland of the merits of a Union, particularly the idea of an incorporating Union (that is a single parliament).

There were riots in many parts of Scotland, particularly in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Daniel Defoe, who was a tireless worker for the English cause, in one of his letters to the English government complained of a great noise, and looking out saw " a terrible multitude come up the High Street with a drum at the head of them shouting and swearing and crying out 'All Scotland would stand together. No Union, No Union. English dogs' and the like."

Addresses against the Union poured into Parliament from all over the country. From the town council of Perth "We, after mature deliberation are fully convinced that such a Union as is proposed is contrary to the honour, interest and fundamental laws and conditions of this Kingdom and to the Claim of Right––" That from the General Convention of Royal Burghs encompassed many of the fears of the Scottish people.

They were "not against an honourable and safe Union with England consisting with the Being of the Kingdom and Parliament thereof," what moved them to passionate opposition was the idea of an incorporating Union "by which our Monarchy is supprest, our Parliament is extinguished and in consequence our Religion, Church, Government, Claim of Right, Laws, Liberties, Trade and all that is dear to us daily in danger of being encroached upon, altered or wholly subverted by the English, in a British Parliament, wherein the mean representation allowed for Scotland can never signify in securing to us the Interest reserved by us, or granted to us by the English." In point of fact, the Scots with about a fifth of the population of England were allocated only 45 M.P.s against England's 513.

These addresses were seized upon by the Duke of Atholl. "There is not one address from any part of the Kingdom in favour of this Union," he claimed in Parliament and demanded a dissolution and the summoning of a new Parliament "to have the immediate sentiments of the Nation since these articles have been made public."

His motion was defeated on January 7th 1707 and on January 17th the treaty was finally ratified by 110 votes to 67.

Whatever might be the advantages of a Union with England, the manner in which it was encompassed reflected little credit upon the Scottish Parliament.

Daniel Defoe. "The great men are posting to London for places and honours, every man full of his own merit and afraid of everyone near him; I never saw so much trick, sham, pride, jealousy and cutting of friend's throats as there is among the noblemen."

Sir Walter Scott. "It may be doubted whether the descendants of the noble lords and honourable gentlemen who accepted this gratification would be more shocked at the general fact of their ancestors being corrupted or scandalised at the paltry amount of the bribe"

Finally, from an anonymous pamphlet circulating at the time. "Can anything be more Treacherous and Mean than for men to degrade their own Country and has not the majority of the Scotch Parliament done this effectively?"

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