Stewart, Ralph(Acadia University)
Scottish Tradition, Vol. 25 (2000)
The last Scottish Parliament voted itself out of existence in 1707, and ended Scotland’s claim to be a politically independent country. It seemed, as the Chancellor Seafield said, “ane end of ane auld sang”. The vote concluded several years of furious argument, in Parliament, in the streets, and in many pamphlets, about whether Scotland was worth preserving, with the threat of force and even full-scale war in the background. Yet it went against the wishes of the great majority of the people, who would have endorsed the words of a new song: “We’re bought and sold for English gold / Such a parcel of rogues in a nation.”
This article examines the unpopular but successful case made by the “rogues,” in favour of Union with England. It begins with a brief description of the social and political situation, and of the case for Scottish nationalism according to Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun. It then presents the case for Union and against an independent Scotland, as made in the writings of Defoe, William Paterson, William Seton (also known as Lord Pitmeddon), and Sir John Clerk of Pennycuik. These are probably the best of the advocates for Union, and their writings on this topic deserve more attention than they have received (Defoe, Paterson, and Clerk are quite well known in history, but for other reasons). Finally, the article glances at the effects of the Union, and at possible applications of the pro-Union arguments to the present.