The Alien Act – Bully Boy Nation England Forces a Treaty of Union On Scotland
The 1701 Alien Act was the culmination of the England’s efforts to subjucate Scotland, and the negative impact was huge.
An embargo on Scottish goods to both England and its colonies, enforced by a naval blockade of Scottish ports and a large English army force in Berwick, cut maritime trade by fifty percent, crippling Scotland’s already fragmented economy which was struggling to recover after twenty five percent of Scotland’s total liquid capital had been lost during the Darien Scheme.
The Act also threatened inheritance rights for Scottish nationals living in England, causing unrest among Scotland’s elite.
Through this piece of legislation, English Parliament hinted at the dangers of refusing to unite the two nations.
England had the power to destroy the Scottish economy and take away the property of many of its citizens, and unless Scotland agreed to their proposals that was exactly what they would do.
In 1706 Scotland relented, activating a provision added to the end of the Alien Act that suspended the legislation as a whole following Scotland’s entrance into negotiations leading to the 1707 Act of Union with England.
Second Thoughts On the Union – The First Earl of Seafield and His Attempt to Repeal the 1707 Treaty of Union
On 2nd June 1713 the Earl introduced a Bill in the House of Lords to repeal the 1707 Treaty of Union citing amongst the grievances of the Scots:
1. The dissolution of the Scottish Privy Council.
The Treaty of Union 1707 with England preserved the Scottish Legal System. Article XIX providing “that the Court of Session or College of Justice do after the Union and notwithstanding thereof remain in all time coming within Scotland, and that the Court of Justiciary do also after the Union … remain in all time coming.
But soon after the Union, the Union with Scotland (Amendment) Act 1707 combined the English and Scottish Privy Councils and decentralised Scottish administration through the appointment of justices of the peace in each Scottish shire to carry out administration.
In effect it took the day-to-day government of Scotland out of the hands of politicians and into those of the College of Justice who would report to the officer in post in the newly created position of Scottish Secretary of State in Westminster.
2. The Treason Act.
The Scottish Act, which was relatively humane was abandoned in favour of the more barbarous English Treason Act.
Section III of the Act required the Scottish courts to try cases of treason and misprision of treason according to English rules of procedure and evidence.
When the Scottish Parliament was established in 1998, treason and misprision of treason were designated as “reserved matters,” meaning they fell outside the jurisdiction of the Scottish government.
3. The incapacitating of the peers.
After the Scottish Parliament passed the ratifying Act it turned to the question of Scotland’s future parliamentary representation.
Article 22 of the Treaty had decreed that 16 peers and 45 commoners were to represent Scotland at Westminster, It would be for Scotland’s Parliament to settle the detail.
At this time the Edinburgh parliament was a unicameral body which, by the eve of the Union, had grown to consist of a ‘theoretical’ total of 302, made up of some 143 hereditary peers, 92 ‘shire’ or county commissioners, and 67 burgh commissioners.
Inevitably, Scotland’s loss of its representative body – symbolizing the loss of national sovereignty – in favour of a much reduced representation at Westminster produced deep resentment among the Scottish populace.
At the end of January 1707, following a series of ill-attended sittings, the Scottish Parliament passed legislation setting out the procedures for electing the 16 peers and 45 commoners. The 16 representative peers were to be chosen by the entire body of Scottish peers through ‘open election’ rather than by ballot.
Each elected peer was to serve for the duration of one Parliament. Upon the dissolution of Parliament all Scottish peers would be summoned by royal proclamation to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, where the names of peers were called over and each peer would then read out his list of 16 nominees.
It became standard practice for governments to canvass their preferred choices, thus ensuring a controllable bloc of support in the Upper House. The practice of electing “representative peers” of Scotland was to continue until it was abolished by the Peerage Act of 1963.
Scots legal experts were frustrated that from 1712 the House of Lords in Westminster was also the Court of Appeal for Scottish cases.
This led to “miscarriages of justice” caused by a lack of understanding of Scots law by English judges.
Scots landowners with English titles were angry in 1711 when they were prevented from taking their seats in the House of Lords.
4. The introduction of many new taxes on Scotland
After 1707, new taxes imposed on Scotland by Westminster increased the prices of Scottish goods for export to England and abroad greatly benefitting English manufacturers but to the severe detriment of Scot’s.
Duties on linen in 1711 and 1715, and the Soap Act of 1714 upset many people in Scotland.
The Salt Tax of 1711 was especially unpopular and resulted in riots.
The Malt Tax, introduced in 1713 in defiance of the Treaty of Union was imposed on the Scottish brewing industry and undermined a wide range of Scottish endeavours and entrenched a culture of evasion, amongst poor Scots who relied on a diet of inexpensive ale.
The cumulative effect of the new taxes served only to reduce legitimate trade in Scotland whilst encouraging smuggling and in some instances outright resistance.
As a result of increased goods duties, there were attacks on customs officers and an increase in the smuggling of goods into Scotland.
The Malt Tax Riots in 1725 and the Porteous Riot in 1736 both highlighted popular resentment for English intervention in the name of integration.
5. The deliberate ruination by Westminster of Scottish trade and manufacturing
Despite the promises made by England during the unification process, economic rehabilitation in Scotland was an abject failure.
While there were apparent economic benefits for the nobility and landowners, who “sensed that union would open up new opportunities to them through being able to sell their cattle and other produce to England” they represented a very small part of the socio-economic makeup of Scotland.
The benefits of maritime trade afforded to them by the union only applied to the elite, (this is still the case in 2014) and the rest of Scotland faced a new, far less attractive economic reality after 1707.
The expansion of the cattle and sheep industries in Scotland to compensate for increased demand in England also led to many tenants being forcibly cleared off of their land in order to maximize grazing.
This accumulation of injustices only served to strengthen resistance to the Union of 1707 in both the Lowlands and the Highlands and, as their economic situation worsened many turned to Jacobitism as a solution to their problems, one that supported “the old monarchy” and was inherently Scottish.
6. Introduction of the English Enclosure Act
There was great unrest as a result of introduction of the English “enclosures” system of land allocation, replacing the Scottish “runrig” system.
There were outbreaks of fence-smashing by labourers who had fallen on hard times through not being able to afford “enclosures.”
7. The Irish Diamension – The Wool Act
Westninster prohibited any export of manufactured woollen goods from Ireland in 1699.
A protection of trade measure designed to ensure English farmers and woollen manufacturers would be allowed to operate without competition.
The restrictions on the woollen trade greatly distorted the importance of the Irish linen industry, particularly in Ulster and in 1696 a Bill was passed through Westminster which encouraged the manufacturing of linen in Ireland free of tax at time of export to England and other foreign trade.
But Scotland was not considered. Linen taxes were imposed on Scotland to the detriment of the trade and its rapid closure due to the high cost of exporting the yarn and finished goods.
Outcome of the Debate
The response from the English peers who favoured the Union’s continuance principally underscored its importance in terms of protecting the succession.
At this point the coherence of the Scots’ assault broke down as some of their English allies moved in favour of adjourning the debate and suggested that separate legislation should be drafted for protecting the nation.
When the House came to divide, the bill for dissolving the Union lost by just 4 votes, and even then only because of the employment of proxies.
A few days later the malt bill passed the Lords and was enacted on 10th June.
The failure of the Scots’ rebellion was largely down to their inability to secure the unqualified support of key members of the Whig opposition.
For many of these the affair was simply an opportunity to embarrass the administration and when it came to the crunch were found to be absent from the House.
Even for those who believed genuinely that something needed to be done to improve the condition of the Scots, several preferred to concentrate on securing an amended version of the malt bill rather than threatening the Union itself.
Inevitable Rebellion: The Jacobite Risings and the Union of 1707 – Lindsay Swanson – PSU HST 102 – December 17, 2014