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June 2nd 1713

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Second thoughts on the Union

Among the most important supporters of the treaty of Union were the Duke of Queensbury, the Earl of Mar and the Earl of Seafield. Seafield’s remark after the dissolution of the Scots Parliament, “The end of an auld sang”  is well known. All three aristocrats expected to, and indeed did, obtain substantial material benefits for their parts in piloting the measure through the Scots Parliament. In spite of this, at least two of them began to have second thoughts concerning the treaty.

Mar to Queen Anne in 1708. “I think myself obliged in duty to tell your Majesty that so farr as I understand, the inclination and temper of the generality of this country is still as dissatisfied with the Union as ever and seem mightily sowr’d.” 

Mar to the Earl of Oxford three years later. “I am not yett wearie of the Union……so I do not at all repent any hand I had in it, tho I’m afraid I have fue of either side of my opinion.” 

But towards the end of the same year writing to his brother. “As to dissolving the Union in a parliamentary way, I despair of it. Thus are we situat, and I believe never were people in harder circumstances……If we saw a possibility of getting free of the Union without a civill warr we would have some comfort, but that I’m afraid is impossible.” 

The Earl of Seafield, now the Earl of Findlater was more optimistic than Mar. In June 1713 he introduced a Bill in the House of Lords to repeal the Union citing amongst the grievances of the Scots, “the dissolution of the Council (the Scottish Privy Council), the Treason Act (the Scottish Act which was relatively humane was abandoned in favour of the more barbarous English Treason Act), the incapacitating the peers - but above all our many taxes, especially the Malt Tax (It was proposed that the Malt Tax should apply to Scotland although this was in defiance of the Treaty of Union), and the ruin of our trade and manufactorys……” 

The motion was lost by a mere four proxy votes. Mar had been proved right but only just. Two years later he tried the second alternative. He became the leader, and not a very effective one, of the 1715 Jacobite rebellion.

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