1707-Union of the Parliaments between Scotland and England

The Road to Union

After the death of William of Orange, there was no improvement for Scotland. His successor Queen Anne was even more unsympathetic to problems north of the Border. She had no surviving children, and the uncertainty of the succession seemed to present the Scottish parliament with an opportunity to flex its muscles. It insisted that the succession to her would not be ratified until Scottish trading grievances were redressed. Panicking, the English government decided that the only way to get over this problem was to opt for a union between the two parliaments. There was popular uproar in the streets of Edinburgh. George Lockhart of Carnwath, a staunch anti-unionist, recorded the disturbances in his Memoirs Concerning the Affairs of Scotland. Here is the scene in 1706, in the run-up to union.

During this Time, the Nation's Aversion to the Union increas'd; the Parliament-Close, and the Outer-Parliament House, were crowded every Day when the Parliament was met, with an infinite Number of People, all exclaiming against the Union, and speaking very free Language concerning the Promoters of it. The Commissioner [the Marquis of Queensberry], as he pass'd along the Street, was cursed and reviled to his Face, and the D---of H---n [Duke of Hamilton - the leader of the opposition] huzza'd and convey'd every Night, with a great Number of Apprentices and younger Sort of People, from the Parliament House to the Abbey, exhorting him to stand by the Country and assuring him of his being supported. And upon the Twenty Third of October above Three or Four Hundred of them being thus employ'd, did, as soon as they left his Grace, hasten in a Body to the House of Sir Pat Johnston (their late darling Provost, one of the Commissioners of the Treaty, a great Promoter of the Union, in Parliament, where he sat as one of the Representatives of the Town of Edinburgh) threw Stones at his Windows, broke open his Doors, and search'd his House for him, but he having narrowly made his Escape, prevented his being torn in a Thousand Pieces. From thence the Mob, which was encreas'd to a great Number, went thro' the Streets, threatening Destruction to all the Promoters of the Union, and continued for four or five Hours in this Temper; till about three next Morning, a strong Detachment of the Foot Guards was sent to secure the Gate call'd the Netherbow Port, and keep Guard in the Parliament Close. Tis not to be express'd how great the Consternation was that seiz'd the Courtiers on the Occasion: Formerly they did, or pretended not to believe the Disposition of the People against the Union; but now they were throughly convinc'd of it, and terribly afraid of their Lives. This Passage making it evident that the Union was crammed down Scotland's Throat. For not only were the Inclinations of the Elder and Wiser known by the Actions of the Rasher and Younger, but even the very Soldiers as they march'd to seize the Port, were overheard saying to one another, 'tis hard we should oppose those that are standing up for the Country, 'tis what we can't help just now, but what we won't continue at. The Mob being once dispatch'd, Guards of regular Forces were plac'd in the Parliament Close, Weight-House and Netherbow-Port, and the whole Army, body Horse and Foot, was drawn together near Edinburgh, and continu'd so all the Session of Parliament: Nay the Commissioner (as if he had been led to the Gallows) made his Parade every Day after this, from the Parliament House to the Cross, (where his Coaches waited for him, no Coaches, no Person, that was not a Member of Parliament, being suffer'd to enter the Parliament Close towards the Evening, of such Days as the Parliament was sitting) thro' two Lanes of Musqueteers, and went from thence to the Abbey, the Horse Guards surrounding his Coach, and if it was dark, for the greater Security, a Part of the Foot Guards likewise. This Mob was attended with bad Consequences to the Country Party; for falling out before the Nation was equally inform'd of the State of Affairs, and equally inflam'd with Resentment, it was the easier dispatch'd and discourag'd others from making any Attempts for the Future, and gave Occasion to the Courtiers here, to represent to the Ministry of England not to be alarmed, for it consisted of a Parcel of rascally Boys, no others being concern'd in it, tho' the Chief of the Country Party had encourag'd and hir'd them out; besides, the Placing of these Guards overaw'd many, both in and out of the House.

Tho' it was plain to all unbyass'd People, that this Mob had its Rise very accidentally, yet the Government was not fond of any such Amusements, and therefore the next Day after it happen'd, the Privy Council met and ordained these Guards to be continu'd, and emitted a Proclamation against Tumultuous Meetings, wherein they commanded all Persons to retire off the Streets when ever the Drum should beat and give Warning, order'd the Guards to fire upon such as would not obey, and granted an Indemnity to such as should on that Occasion, kill any of the Leidges.

George Lockhart of Carnwath, Memoirs Concerning The Affairs of Scotland from Queen Anne's Accession to the Throne to the Commencement of the Union of the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England in May 1707, Edinburgh, 1714.

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