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Scotland and the Scots, 1707-2007

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Christian Auer

I. Union, 1707

1. Against an Incorporating Union, 1703

Texte intégral

1Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun (1653-1716) was elected as a Member of Parliament for Haddingtonshire (East Lothian) in 1678. The discussions about the Treaty of Union brought him to the forefront of Scottish politics. A leading figure of the country party (the main opposition party in the Scottish parliament), he attacked arbitrary monarchy and thought that an incorporating Union would inevitably lead to Scottish subordination to England. Fletcher was profoundly disappointed by the terms of the treaty of Union and decided to retire from politics to devote himself to farming and agricultural development in East Lothian. It is only later that he became known as the ‘Patriot’.

2The following is an extract of a conversation between the Earl of Cromarty and Andrew Fletcher.

3“An Account of a Conversation concerning a Right Regulation of Governments for the common Good of Mankind in a Letter to the Marquis of Montrose, the Earls of Rothes, Roxburg and Haddington, From London the first of December, 1703”, in The Political Works of Andrew Fletcher, Esq; [of Saltoun.] Edinburgh: A. Bettesworth & C. Hitch, 1732, p. 396-400.

[Andrew Fletcher:] I am of opinion, said I, that by an incorporating union, as they call it, of the two nations, Scotland will become more poor than ever.

Why so?

Because Scotsmen will then spend in England ten times more than now they do; which will soon exhaust the money of the nation. For besides the sums that members of parliament will every winter carry to London, all our countrymen who have plentiful estates will constantly reside there, no less than those of Ireland do at this time. No Scotsman who expects any publick employment, will ever set his foot in Scotland; and every man that makes his fortune in England, will purchase lands in that kingdom; our trade, which is the bait that covers the hook, will be only an inconsiderable retail, in a poor, remote and barren country, where the richest of pure nobility and gentry will no longer reside: and though we should allow all the visionary suppositions of those who are so fond of this union; yet our trade cannot possibly increase on a sudden. Whereas the expences I mentioned will in a very short time exhaust us, and leave no stock for any kind of commerce. But, said the Earl, you do not distinguish right, nor consider where the fallacy of your reasoning lies. You talk of Scotland and Scots money, and do not reflect that we shall then be a part of Britain; England will be increased by the accession of Scotland, and both those names lost in that of Britain: so that you are to consider the good of that whole body, of which you then become a citizen, and will be much happier than you was, by being in all respects qualified to pretend to any office or employment in Britain, and may trade or purchase in any part of the island. [Andrew Fletcher:] But, by your leave, my lord, let me distinguish plainly, and tell you, that if I make a bargain for the people that inhabit the northern part of this island, I ought principally to consider the interest of those who shall continue to live in that place, that they may find their account in the agreement, and be better provided for than they are. For if the advantages of getting employments, trading and purchasing in any part of the island, are the only things to be considered, all these may be as well obtained by any one who would change his country in the present state of things. And if in the union of several countries under one government, the prosperity and happiness of the different nations are not considered, as well as of the whole united body, those that are more remote from the seat of the government will be only made subservient to the interest of others, and their condition very miserable. On the other hand, besides our fishery, which God and nature has given us, together with the great privileges already granted to our African company, a distinct sovereignty does always enable a people to retain some riches, and leaves them without excuse if they do not rise to considerable wealth. So that if a sufficient provision be made to prevent the exhausting of our money by the attendance of Scotsmen at court, and to take away the influence of English ministers upon our affairs, no condition of men will be more happy. For we shall then be possessed of liberty; shall administer our own affairs, and be free from the corruptions of a court; we shall have the certain and constant alliance of a powerful nation, of the same language, religion and government, lying between us and all enemies both by sea and land, and obliged in interest to keep perpetual peace and amity with us. And this you cannot but allow to be a much happier condition, than any we ever could propose to ourselves by all the projects of union that have hitherto been formed. Here the Earl endeavoured by many arguments to shew that our country would be the place, where all manufactures, as well for the use of the whole island, as for exportation, would be made by reason of the cheapest of living, and the many hands that Scotland could furnish. I said the contrary was not only most evident; but that the union would certainly destroy even those manufactures we now have.

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