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Reviewed by:
  • The Scots and the Union
  • Iain McLean
The Scots and the Union. By Christopher A. WhatleyDerek J. Patrick. Pp. xvi, 424. ISBN: 0 7486 1685 3. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 2006. £25.00.

The Jacobites always had the best tunes, even before Burns and Hogg got to work on them. We sang them every week at primary school. We also learnt about the Cameronians and the conventicles and the Killing Times. They were against the Union too. Like many SHR readers I was brought up in the culturally nationalist but politically unionist Scotland created by Sir Walter Scott, where Cameronian and Jacobite rubbed shoulders as fellow enemies of the parcel of rogues in the nation who created the Union of 1707.

It is all rubbish of course. This is not now news to readers of this journal. But it is strange that not until the tercentenary of Union do we get an academic monograph that devotes 424 pages to destroying the parcel of rogues hypothesis. Why has it been so tenacious? I suggest three reasons, one historical and two historiographical. First, there can be no doubt that Union was deeply unpopular in Scotland, or at least in the streets of Edinburgh and the petitioning burghs and presbyteries, between 1705 and 1707. It remained unpopular enough to give the Jacobites succour until 1746. Second, it is much more fun to quote the fiery Jacobite Lockhart of Carnwath than the shy scholarly Unionist Clerk of Penicuik. The Jacobites had the better prose as well as poetry. Compare Lockhart:

The Presbyterians looked on themselves as undone, Despair appear’d in their Countenances, which were more upon the Melancholick and Dejected Air than usual, and most of their Doctrines from the Pulpits, were Exhortations to Stand by, Support, and be ready to suffer for Christ’s Cause (the Epithet they gave their own)

(quoted at p. 207)

with Clerk’s attack on those who:

exclaim[ed] against the Union, as a thing that will ruin us; not considering that our case is such, that ‘tis scarce conceivable, how any condition of life, we can fall into, can render us more Miserable and Poor, than we are (quoted at p. 291).

It is almost a contest between 1066 and All That’s ‘Wrong but Romantic’ and ‘Right but Repulsive’.

Thirdly, professional historiography of the Union, with P. W. J. Riley at its head, was determinedly Namierite. Namier begged the question. His ideology was that there was no ideology but only interest in eighteenth-century Parliaments. He then went out and found the interests he was looking for. Riley and many other historians did the same. Many of those who voted for Union in the last Scottish Parliament were Darien shareholders, attracted by the 15th Article which offered them their money back, or had held government office, or [End Page 343] hoped to, or were owed back pay for past political or military service. Namierites do not look for ideology because they have already decreed that there is none. Case proven?

Not quite. Hoping for office could make you jump either way-consider Hamilton, Mar in 1707, Mar in 1715, and Belhaven. Whatley cites pioneer work by Allan Macinnes on the roll-call votes in the Scottish Parliament in 1706 and 1707, showing that these factors did not all work the same way. He could have gone further. In State of the Union (OUP 2005), Alistair McMillan and I recovered Macinnes’ corrupted roll call data and added more, including a list of Darien shareholders in the Bodleian Library. We have shown that Darien stockholders among Scots MPs were, statistically, no more likely to vote for Union (on either the 1st or the 15th Article) than non-stockholders (p of χ2 = 0.53 for Article 1). Collapse of the parcel of rogues hypothesis.

Whatley’s detailed account stresses two things, the first less than I think he should. First, the Treaty was a bargain. Bargains are not made unless both sides think they are better off with the bargain than without. Second, the opposition to Union came from two incompatible groups: extreme Presbyterians and Jacobites. Their temporary coalition in 1707 was purely...


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