Was the Union of 1707 a takeover by the English?

Term Paper, 2013

16 Pages, Grade: 1,3



1. Introduction

2. Scotland before the Union ofParliaments
2.1. Pre-union politics
2.2. Pre-union economy
2.3. Pre-union religion

3. Scotland after the Union of Parliaments
3.1. Post-union politics
3.2. Post-union economy
3.3. Post-union religion

4. Conclusion

5. References

1. Introduction

The English Parliament united with the Scottish Parliament by the Treaty of Union in 1707. The Union of Parliaments was a moment full of changes for Scotland. Economics, religion as well as politics of Scotland in many respects had to adjust to England. The question we consequently need to ask ourselves is, whether the events of the union can be described as a takeover? Was the union with the English Parliament avertable or could Scotland have endured without England?

In the following term paper I will expose the political, economic and religious aspects, which led to the Act of Union in 1707. In addition to that I will also take a look at the consequences of the union after 1707 in order to show the profits and losses for Scotland. By the different aspects I will analyze the events of the time and hence determine a possible takeover by the English.

2. Scotland before the Union ofParliaments

2.1. Pre-union politics

Scotland’s Parliament was united with the British Parliament by the Treaty of Union in 1707. To understand the necessity of a union between England and Scotland or the possibility to prevent it, we need to take a look at the conditions within Scotland at the end of the 17 th century. King James the 2nd ruled over Scotland since 1685. His reign had only lasted for three years, because already in 1688 members of the opposition invited James’ brother-in­law, William of Orange from the Netherlands to Scotland in order to overthrow the king. They were afraid that King James, being catholic, would promote Catholicism in Scotland. So they spread propaganda about King James’ son, who they said was illegitimate and therefore had no right of succession. (Pittock 1991, 21) In 1688 William of Orange landed in the West County accompanied by 15,000 men. When a great number of King James soldiers deserted in view of William of Orange’s troops, King James fled to France and William of Orange, as a result, took over the reign. Eventually a Bill of Rights was published in 1689, which prescribed that the King of Scotland and England could only be protestant. (Maurer 2008, 168) This condition excluded the catholic James Stuart and his heirs from the throne. In the eyes of William of Orange and his supporters, the Bill of Rights secured the traditional Protestantism within Scotland and rescued the country from the danger of Catholicism. (Pittock 1991, 19) With the Act of Settlement in 1701 William of Orange strengthened the Bill of Rights and ensured the succession of a protestant king. It also contained the succession of the House of Hanover to the throne. The Scottish Parliament was not consulted regarding the Act of Settlement. (Maurer 2008, 172) As a result it did not accept the Act and reacted to it by the Act of Security and the Anent of Peace and War. With these two acts the Scottish Parliament wanted to keep the right to destine a successor for Scotland independently from England. In addition to that they wanted to keep a foreign policy and independent trade and church system. (Maurer 2008, 172)

After the death of William of Orange in 1702 his daughter Anne took over the reign. She and the English were concerned about the new Acts of the Scottish Parliament and saw it as “a challenge to the constitutional privileges the English Parliament was demanding by virtue of the Act of Settlement”. (Pittock 1991, 25-26) They were especially concerned about the possibility of a renewed reign of a Stuart. Queen Anne wanted to achieve a Union of Parliaments to ensure a Hanoverian succession. In addition to that she wanted to prevent the possibility that in times of war Scotland could ally with France against England. (Maurer 2008, 174) Hence, she reacted to both acts by the Alien Act in 1705. It gave the Scots until Christmas to decide for a union. If the Scots decided against negotiations with the English, they would be seen as aliens within English territory. This would mean that Scots were prohibited to trade with cattle and linen and were unable to inherit or own property within English territory. It would have meant tremendous consequences for the Scottish economy, because at that time it was dependent on trade with England. The act would also have consequences for the trade with the English colonies, because of the preceding Navigation Act ofl651. It prohibited any foreigners to take part in the colonial trade. Even if it then only was directed against England’s competitor, the Netherlands, the Alien Act would have widened the effect and would have included Scotland as well. In the end, the Alien Act was never enforced, because already in 1706 the Scots consulted with England to negotiate a Union ofParliaments. (Mitchison 1995, 307)

Before the Union of 1707 the public mood in Scotland as well as in England was increasingly tense. Most of the Scots were against an incorporating union and rather hoped for a federal union, which would prevent a total subordination of the Scottish Estates. (Mackillop)1

2.1 Pre-union economy

The economic situation before the union was that Scotland was a poor and backward state. According to the pamphleteers James Hodges and George Ridpath, the deciding cause for Scotland’s backwardness was the “constitutional ambiguities of the Union of the Crowns”. Hence, the king put the interests of the whole kingdom before those of Scotland. (Kidd 1993, 34)

Scotland was dominated by agriculture, which caused many problems at the end of the seventeenth century. Bad harvests in the 1690s caused famine and emigration to Ireland. Consequently, the population of Scotland decreased between 5 and 33 per cent.2 (Pittock 1997, 26) According to Fletcher of Saltoun, an opponent of the Union, estimated one out of six Scots begged on the streets. In fact there were many outcasts, who lived outside the community and were not bound to a permanent address. (Mitchison 1995, 300) The Navigation Act of 1651 made it much harder for Scottish traders to take part in the colonial trade. So Scotland for the most part was dependent on the trade with England. The most important exports were cattle and linen, which were transported to England. (Mitchison 1995, 301) The Scots therefore could not let the Alien Act happen, because this would have enhanced the already existing economic problems of the country. In addition to the limitation of trade partners, there were further problems caused by the trade slumps of 1689 and 1691. In order to solve these problems and to be able to trade with Africa and the Indies, the Scots wanted to found a trading company comparable to the East India Company. The latter protested against the foundation of the company and therefore caused English and international investors to hold back the necessary money. Nevertheless the Scots founded the company on their own. When the project failed and the Scots lost over 150,000 pound sterling and 2000 men in the Darien scheme, their anger majorly directed towards King William of Orange. He himself had put pressure on merchants from Hamburg to avoid their subscription for the project. (Mitchison 1995, 303) By the Darien scheme Scotland lost over 25 per cent of its trading assets. (Lee 1995, 8) According to Christopher Smout, a Scottish academic and historian, “Scotland was on the verge of economic collapse.” (Smout in Lee 1995, 8)

Even though most historians nowadays believe that there was no other way for Scotland than to unite with England, the historian Thomas Devine is of another opinion. He states that there was a capacity for economic growth, because Scotland’s economy grew moderately, but inherent. He claims that between 1660 and 1700 especially the Scottish ruling classes had great interest in the progress of Scotland’s economic power. His opinion is that there was a change of attitude. In the end the advantages of a union were far greater. (Lee 1995, 10) The events of the 1690s made the Scots deal with the idea of a union. (Pittock 1997, 26) A union with England would mean expanding trade by the English domestic market as well as colonial trade and the improvement of the estates in Scotland. Furthermore it would free Scottish traders from the risks and costs of illegal smuggling. According to Clive Lee, historians see the “economic advantages of the union as a prime reason for signing the treaty”. (Lee 1995, 10) On the other hand there were also fears within Scotland concerning an approaching union with England as for example unemployment, hefty taxation and the loss of the home market to English imports. (Lee 1995, 10) When war reoccurred in 1702, contractions on the market and the rise of piracy caused further problems to the Scottish economy. (Pittock 1997, 26)

In 1707 the Scottish finances hit the rock bottom. Scotland was not able to pay her army and civil establishment. (Lee 1995, 9) Therefore a union with England seemed the only way to solve the economic problems.

2.3. Pre-union religion

King James the 2nd ruled in Scotland and England until 1688. The king himself was Roman Catholic, but was known for his support of religious toleration. He even released masses of Quakers from Prison in 1686. (Pittock 1991, 18) He wanted to have the sacred as well as secular sovereignty over both countries. However, he was not able to be a sacred leader, because he was not even a member of Anglican Church. The Scots were mainly against his idea of religious toleration, because they were concerned about his real intentions. A lot of Scots were of the opinion that King James’ religious toleration was only a deception. The English as well as the Scots thought that his real intentions were to return to the ancient Scottish Catholicism. (Pittock 1991, 19) These fears were fortified by rumors that only Catholics served in the Scottish Army. ( Pittock 1991, 18) According to Pittock, this was not true. In fact there were very few Catholics among the Scottish soldiers. In addition to that, all commanders of the Army were Protestant. ( Pittock 1991, 19) When King William of Orange took over the reign in 1688, the Scottish Parliament abolished the Episcopal church government, because it remained loyal to the former King James the 2nd. As a consequence, Episcopal religion was abolished. Episcopal ministers were forced out by Convenanters in the south west of Scotland. Only in some areas of the north east they were protected by local lairds, who were Jacobites and supporters of the Episcopal ideology of the sacred kingship of King James. (Pittock 1991, 22) During the reign of King William of Orange, religion in Scotland was deeply divided. In the central area of Scotland mainly Presbyterianism was popular. The Nobles And Gentry, however, were mainly Episcopal just like the Scots, who lived in the North. Most Episcopals were Jacobites and supporters of James the 2nd. (Pittock 1991, 24) Their prior aim was to to overthrow Presbyterianism in Scotland. (Kidd 1993, 53) On the other hand there were the Presbyterians, whose major goal was to preserve Presbyterianism for the Scottish Kirk. (Kidd 1993, 46)

In 1701 William of Orange brought through the Act of Settlement, which ensured a protestant succession of the throne. With this Act he wanted to prevent a possible succession of a Catholic King and hence the spread of the Catholic religion. The Scots did not accept the Act of Settlement, because they were not consulted at all. (Maurer 2008, 172) With the treaty of Union in 1707 Scotland agreed to the Hanoverian succession. Furthermore it ensured that civil law and church settlements were held separately.


1 http://www.abdn.ac.uk/actsofunion/panel5.php

2 The higher percentage of 33 includes the emigration to Ireland

Excerpt out of 16 pages


Was the Union of 1707 a takeover by the English?
University of Rostock  (Anglistik)
Scottish Culture and Society from 1603 to the Present
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Scottish History, Scottish Culture, Treaty of Union, Scotland, Union of Parliaments, Schottische Geschichte, Schottland, Politics
Quote paper
Katharina Pangritz (Author), 2013, Was the Union of 1707 a takeover by the English?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/511785


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