Guide to Scotland
   Gateway to the British Isles since 1996
A Brief History of Scotland

Presented by Peter N. Williams, Ph.D.

Chapter 7: The Union of 1707

Aberdeen gave us James Gregory, inventor of the reflecting telescope; his nephew David taught astronomy at Oxford. Physicians Sir Robert Sibbald and Archibald Pitcairne laid the foundations of Edinburgh's future distinction in medicine. A botanical garden was established for the study of medicinal plants. The Royal College of Physicians was chartered in 1685 (the College of Surgeons had been established as early as 1505). At Glasgow, the publication of James Dalrymple's "Institutions of the Law of Scotland" (1681) was highly influential in the development of modern Scots Law.

That was not all. Many other Scottish graduates contributed to the intellectual and cultural life of Britain. All the various Scottish regions were depicted in detail for the first time thanks to the work of Scottish cartographers. In 1682, Sir George Mackenzie founded the Advocates' Library, later to become the National Library of Scotland. Law was taught at the Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow as well as at that city's university. During the later part of the century, the scarce, spasmodic progress in literature and art (severely hampered by what was happening in the religious sphere) was more than compensated for by the creative talents displayed in Scottish architecture. Scots Baronial represented "the most remarkable cultural achievement of the century" (Pryde, 44).

It is in the use of the English language, however, that the people of Scotland were drawn irrevocably closer to their English neighbors, loving them or not. The provision of a network of elementary schools put into place by acts of the General Assembly had made it a Christian duty of instruct the youth of every parish in "godliness and knowledge," to teach them to read and write in English, and thereby, abolish the "Irish" (or Gaelic) language--the chief cause of the continued "barbaritie and incivilitie" of the people of the Highlands and Islands. (The policies of the later Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge founded in 1699, continued the hostile policy of Gaelic in its Scottish schools though a similar society condoned the use of Welsh in its schools in Wales).

Following this decision of the Privy Council taken as early as 1616, the act was ratified in 1633 giving the bishops authority to raise a land tax in each parish to establish and maintain such schools. The Covenanters continued this proposed system of universal elementary education as a religious obligation. It is doubtful, at this time, that they made much progress in the Highlands.

The network of schools that taught their subjects in English effectively got rid of the Gaelic language and the culture that went with it throughout Scotland outside the Western Isles. English was the language of the universities. It was helped by the fact that there was not that much material printed in Gaelic. Apart from the "Book of Deer", containing the Gospels that has an 11th century account of St. Columba's foundation of the monastery and a notitiae, or lists of Church rights that gives us clues as to the nature of Celtic society. We have only the 16th century "Book of the Dean of Lismire" with its 60 or more Gaelic poems. Even the Scots dialect of the Lowland regions was beginning to go out of fashion, as Standard English became the norm. In addition, and of crucial importance to the future use of the of the English language, even in remote areas, the King James or Authorized Version of the Bible was published in 1611. It was used by all Scots Protestants as was, the English-language confession of Faith, the Shorter Catechism and the metrical version of the Psalms.

There was no need to publish the Bible in the Gaelic Language, as the common speech of most of Scotland had become English. Contrast this with the situation in Wales where a Welsh Bible was essential if the English monarchs were to Protestantize that possession: it was not until 1801 that a Gaelic version of the Bible was be grudgingly made available in Scotland.

In 1725, a disarming act forced many Highlanders to abandon their age-old practice of always carrying arms in public. Their decision was prudent if they wished to survive, for their mountain homelands had been invaded by a system of road and bridge building entrusted to General Wade, the British Commander in Chief for Scotland. Wade's plan was to penetrate the more important regions of the Highlands with his roads and to link the strategic strong points of Fort William, Fort Augustus and Fort George. His monumental work was continued by his successor, Colonel Caulfield.

Like the old Roman roads, the new highways facilitated the rapid movement of troops and supplies. These roads enabled the central government to gain a great measure of control over these hitherto practically inaccessible regions and to deny the Highlanders their places of refuge. At the same time, a number of Independent Highland Companies recruited from the "loyal "clans (i.e. those sympathetic to England) were raised by General Wade to help him carry the law into the region. These later formed the highly regarded regiment of the British regular army known as the Black Watch.

Yet, in this period of rapid Anglicization and acceptance of the political and economic situation that prevailed in Protestant England, the Stuarts were not yet finished. In 1708, their hopes were raised again when an invasion of Scotland, launched from France managed to avoid the British fleet. Unfortunately, and by now predictably, the opportunity was lost; the troops landed too far north to be effective in taking Edinburgh. Then, in 1715, James II's son, James Edward Stuart, who was James III to his supporters, was persuaded to undertake an invasion of England -- "the fifteen."

The rising was to begin in southwest England, but was quickly extinguished by Jacobite indecision and government intelligence. In Scotland, as preparation for what was hoped to be a general insurrection, John Erksine, Earl of Mar, led a premature rising. Failing to exploit his advantage in a battle against the heavily outnumbered Duke of Argyll, he retreated even before the Pretender arrived with his forces.

One month later after failure to take Newcastle, a forced surrender at Preston, and complete indifference to the cause in the English counties, the rebellion completely faded out. James Edward, who had planned to be crowned at Scone, fled back to France where Louis XIV had and the French government was unwilling to risk war with Britain. An Anglo-French alliance meant no further support for James from France, at least for the time being. In 1718, the Spanish government, in conflict with Britain for control of the Mediterranean, sponsored an abortive raid on Scotland which ended in defeat for the Highlanders at Glenshiel. In 1745 began the greatest rebellion of all, the cause of Charles Edward Stuart, "Bonnie Prince Charlie," the grandson of James II.

Chapter 8: Charles Edward and the 45