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Scotland and the Scots, 1707-2007

Christian Auer

I. Union, 1707

4. The Advantages of Union, 1707

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1John Arbuthnot (1667-1735), a Scottish author and scientist, is best remembered for creating the character of John Bull, the typical Englishman. A close friend of Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope, he was the principal author of Memoirs of the Extraordinary Life, Works and Discoveries of Martinus Scriblerus, which was published in 1741. He was in favour of the Act of Union of 1707 and wrote A Sermon Preach’d to the People: At the Mercat-Cross of Edinburgh; on the Subject of the Union in its support.

2John Arbuthnot, A Sermon Preach’d to the People: At the Mercat-Cross of Edinburgh; on the Subject of the Union, London: 1707, p. 3-5.

  • 11 Queen Anne (1665-1714), the last monarch of the House of Stuart, who had become Queen on 8 March 17 (...)

Dearly beloved Country-Men, a Generous, Powerful and Victorious Nation invites you to an intimate Union with themselves, a Nation whose Laws are more Just, whose Government is more Mild, whose People are more Free, Easy and Happy, than any other in Europe: A Nation who by their Wealth, Wisdom and Valour, have broke the most formidable Power that ever threatened Christendom: To whose victorious Arms even you yourselves owe your present Security: This Nation, I say, invites you to a Co-partnership of all the Advantages they now enjoy, or may reasonably hope for: A gracious Queen11 of the ancient Line of our own Monarchs, desires nothing more than that the People from whom she derives her Blood, should enjoy the same Liberty and Plenty with others whom Providence has called Her to Govern. It might justly have been expected, that such a generous Proposal would have been welcom’d with the universal Acclamations of all Ranks and Degrees of People–, instead of that you have received it with Riots, Mobs, and Tumults–, If the Offer had not been profitable, it was at least civil, and deserv’d a friendly Reception, and a courteous Answer: A Treaty that was enter’d into at the desire of your own Parliament, as well as that of your Neighbours, and carried on by the Authority of the common Soveraign of both; such a Treaty, I say, was a matter of that weight as made it a very unfit Subject for the Judgment (much more for the Scorn and Contempt) of Boys, Apprentices, and Tradesmen: But since the transcendent Wisdom of your Leaders have thought otherways, let me beseech you in the words of my Author, Eccles. 11.7. Blame not before thou hast examined the Truth, understand first and then rebuke: To enable you in some measure to make such an Enquiry, I have chosen the words of my Text, Better is he that laboureth and aboundeth in all Things, than he that boasteth himself and wanteth Bread.

From the words you may observe a very intimate Conjunction betwixt three dismal Companions, Pride, Poverty, and Idleness; this is a worst Union a great deal than that which we are to discourse of at present, these three love extreamly to keep Company, and I could never guess for what Reason, unless it be to teaze and vex one another: Poverty does what she can to starve Pride, and Pride eats out the Heart, Blood, and Guts of Poverty and Laziness will not stir an Inch to relieve either: That these three fatal Sisters may not only be separated, but eternally banish’d this Kingdom, it shall be the Subject of my following Discourse to show, that it’s better to encrease our Trade, Manufacture, and Riches, by an Union with England, than to boast of our Sovereignty, and starve: For better is he that Laboureth and aboundeth in all Things than he that boasteth himself and wanteth Bread.

And here indeed it must be prov’d, that an Union with England will encrease our Trade, and Manufacture: in order to which, I will ask the greatest Zealot against the Union, a few Questions, and let him answer me if he can. Whether the great Difference betwixt the Wealth of Scotland and England is entirely owing to the natural Advantages of England, as of Fruitfulness of Soil, Situation, & c. Or, if it does not in some measure proceed from political Causes? Scotland is equal at least in Extent to a Third of England, its People more healthful, more prolifick, and more temperate, why has England then seven times the Number of People? Every Acre in Scotland is not barren, nor every Acre in England fruitful, how comes it then that England has fifty times the Riches of Scotland? For example, why does Oxfordshire, not so big as Fife, pay to a Land-Tax, near as much as all Scotland? Are there not many places on each side the Firth of Forth, which exceed the Town of Newcastle, in Soil, Situation, Products Natural and Artificial: How comes it to pass then that the Town of Newcastle has more Trade, more rich Merchants, and pays more Customs than all the Towns in Scotland put together? It is plain, these great Differences do not proceed merely from natural, but likewise from Political Causes.


11 Queen Anne (1665-1714), the last monarch of the House of Stuart, who had become Queen on 8 March 1702.

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