King Billy the Dutchman and his war of the Grand Alliance with France (1688–97)
The War of the Grand Alliance was a major conflict between France and a European wide coalition of Austria and the Holy Roman Empire, the Dutch Republic, Spain, Savoy and England, greatly aided by the newly formed “English Foreign Legion” comprised of Scottish soldiers forced by circumstance to support their sovereign.
It was fought on the European continent and the surrounding seas, Ireland, North America and in India and is sometimes considered the first truly global war.
It also encompassed a theatre in Ireland and in Scotland, where William 3rd and his father-in-law James 2nd battled for control of Scotland and Ireland, and a campaign in colonial North America between French and English settlers and their respective Indian allies.
The French had emerged victorious from the Franco-Dutch War in 1678 as the most powerful nation in Europe and using a combination of aggression, annexation, and quasi-legal means they set about extending their gains stabilizing and strengthening France’s frontiers, culminating in the brief War of the Reunions (1683–84).
French influence over military and political affairs in Europe gradually lessened and in an attempt to re-assert their authority they invaded Germany in 1688 with the purpose of forcing the Holy Roman Empire into accepting their territorial ambitions.
But when Leopold I and the German princes resolved to resist, and when the States General and William 3rd brought Dutch, English, Scottish and Irish into the war against France, the French King at last faced a powerful coalition aimed at curtailing his ambitions.
By 1696 all parties in the war were nearly bankrupt and a settlement was negotiated.
By the terms of the Treaty of Ryswick (1697) the French retained the whole of Alsace, but they were forced to return Lorraine to its ruler and give up any gains on the right bank of the Rhine.
In return the French withdrew support to King James 2nd of England/7th of Scotland (exiled in France) and accepted William 3rd of England and 2nd of Scotland as the rightful King of England, Ireland and Scotland.
Trade embargo imposed on Scotland -The Navigation Acts
These were laws that, from the 1650s, prevented Scotland from trading with England’s colonies in India and the Caribbean. This was supported by King William and denied Scots the chance to profit from the trade opportunities that English merchants enjoyed, cutting off a possible source of wealth for Scots. Unlike England and some other European countries, Scotland had no colonies of its own so it continued to fall behind in terms of trade.
The scope of the act was surreptitiously extended by Westminster, in 1689, to include France, the low countries and any colony of England or Holland and was enforced by English and Dutch warships patrolling, controlling the high seas, the North Sea and the English Channel.
Scottish ships carrying fish and or other cargo would be stopped and boarded, the cargo confiscated, ships sunk and the crews press-ganged into the English navy. Westminster effectively placed an embargo on Scotland and enforced it by blackmailing the support of other countries dependent on England’s support at sea and in Europe and the new colonies.
What was particularly galling was that while their families starved at home in Scotland due to the adverse impact of the embargo thousands of Scots were conscripted to serve as a foreign legion force with newly formed infantry regiments fighting for the so called alliance under the command of incompetent English Generals.
Rebellion against the Crowning of William and Mary
A significant majority of Scots, supported by the Presbyterian clergy and the Scottish Episcopal Church and numerous laymen refused to take oaths of allegiance to William dismissing his and Mary’s joint claim to the thrones of England and Scotland.
A series of Jacobite risings took place, in the course of which Viscount Dundee raised Highland forces and won a victory on 27 July 1689 at the Battle of Killiecrankie, but he died in the fight and this much weakened the Scottish forces.
A month later Scottish Protestant Cameronian forces supporting King William subdued the rising at the Battle of Dunkeld.
William offered Scottish clans that had taken part in the rising a pardon provided that they signed allegiance by a deadline, and his government in Scotland punished a delay with the Massacre of Glencoe of 1692, which became infamous in Jacobite propaganda as William had countersigned the orders.
Bowing to public opinion, William dismissed those responsible for the massacre, though they still remained in his favour; in the words of the historian John Dalberg-Acton, “one became a colonel, another a knight, a third a peer, and a fourth an earl.”
The ‘Ill Years’ famine
The ‘ill Years’ famine began in 1693 and is described as a period of bad harvests and famine in Scotland, which caused massive economic issues for the country.
Over 600,000 men women and children died from hunger, cold or some other abuse inflicted upon them by the famine and Alliance embargo on trade.
Against the preceding background guid men of towns and villages across Scotland petitioned King William, through the Scottish parliament to intervene on behalf of loyal Scots bringing about relief through a reduction in the rate of taxation.
Removal of a standing army in Scotland, which had to be paid for by Scots and support for the secure establishment of the Darien colony which he had personally authorised and supported.
Convention demands that “a good prince should hear the grievances of his people” and in this respect Scots had the right to petition their King
Letters to the sovereign were first sent to the Duke of Queensberry, the King’s high commissioner in Scotland copied to the right honourable estates of the Scottish parliament.
What follows are a few “petitions to King William from the citizens of the burghs of Scotland the content of which could be taken down and sent to the present Queen since the greivances outlined are fully applicable today.
9 January 1701: Petition from the citizens of Glasgow
Sir, We represent that whereas there is nothing dearer to us than the free exercise of religion, which we now presently enjoy, and next the support of our trade, which we find is sensibly encouraged, even by the beginnings of the trade to our settlement of Caledonia, and except due encouragement be given as well for the maintenance of our settlement (in which this city is deeply concerned) as for carrying on our other foreign trade with advantage and encouraging our manufacturers at home, and of relieving us of the financial burden of keeping of so great a number of standing forces, we will not be able to survive under our present taxes considering our extraordinary losses during the latest long war.
May it therefore please your grace and the right honourable the estates of parliament to make such laws as your wisdoms shall think fit for the security of the Protestant religion and maintaining the Presbyterian church government as it is now established by law, the encouragement of piety and virtue, the suppressing of iniquity and vice, and to assert Scotland’s right to our colony of Caledonia, in which so great a part of our stock is employed, and to give such encouragement to our manufacturers at home that our poor, so very large in numbers, may be employed, and to discharge or discourage commerce with nations that refuse our fish and others the product and manufacture of Scotland, and to relive us of unnecessary taxes.
Signed this day 9 January 1701 by 400 guid men of Glasgow
9 January 1701: Petition of the Burghs of Crail, Anstruther, Dysart
Sir, Since his majesty’s happy access to the throne of this kingdom and the ending of the late expensive war we expected the Presbyterian government of the church as now by law established should have been secured against all invasions, and that our exports should have increased bringing employment to the poor improving the natural product of the country and lessening the burden of the nation.
And we are extremely sensible of the decay of thread, both at home and abroad, and that our herrings and fish are prohibited in many places, especially in the kingdom of France, although the government doth allow all French commodities to be imported and sold in this nation, our manufacturers at home and the poor are not employed and encouraged as they ought to be, and our country much drained of money through these years of scarcity, and keeping up of a standing army in time of peace, which is burdensome to Scotland.
And we cannot but be sorry for the great loss and many discouragements our colony of Caledonia has met with through the inhumane attacks of wicked neighbours, and the measures that have been taken to destroy the said colony after so vast a treasure has been expended in that expedition, in the flourishing wherof was placed the hope of recovering much gain and advantage to the nation.
May it therefor please your grace and the right honourable the estates of parliament to take the petition into your consideration and to make such good and wholesome laws as you in your profound wisdom shall think fit for encouraging of trade at home and abroad by discharging the import of French commodities until the prohibition in France be taken off our fish and herrings, for employing the poor in improving the natural product of this kingdom, for easing the burden of so many forces in time of peace, and for asserting the just right to our colony of Caledonia.
Signed this day 9 January 1701 by 40 guid men of Crail, 20 guid men of Anstruther and 20 guid men of Dysart
9 January 1701: Petition of the town of Kirkcaldy
Sir, After a long and expensive war we expected by now to have enjoyed the fruits of a happy peace in the encouraging of foreign trade and of manufacturing at home, in the employing the poor of the nation (which through the dearth of victuals are become very numerous), in improving the natural product at home and in lessening the burden of the nation.
But instead of these blessings, we are extremely aware of the decay in trade, that our export is prohibited almost everywhere, especially in the kingdom of France, that our nation is drained of coin, and though we have good and wholesome laws for encouraging trade, yet that they are not put in execution, that our poor are not employed as they ought to be, and, to compound our misery that a standing army in time of peace is kept up, a heavy burden to the nation.
Amongst other our misfortunes, we cannot but be sensitive to the repeated discouragement our colony of Caledonia has met with, which, though they had acts of parliament and his majesty letters patent in their favour, and though a vast amount of the nations money was expended in the expedition, yet measures have been taken to defeat the design, to dishearten the colony after their settlement, which, to our great grief, have proved effectual, by which means many of our countrymen have lost their lives through the inhuman abuse of their unkind neighbours, in the flourishing of which colony was placed the hopes of recovering our sinking state and nation.
May it therefore please your grace and the right honourable the estates of parliament to take the premise into your consideration, and to fall upon such proper and effectual measures as you and your wisdoms shall think fit for encouraging foreign trade and manufacturing at home, for employing the poor in improving the natural product of this kingdom, for supporting and protecting our interest of Caledonia, and for easing us of the burden of so many forces in time of peace.
9 January 1701: Petition of the Burgh of Perth – The famine in Scotland
Sir, Whereas these many years past we have (beside the calamities of war and dearth which were common to us with others of this kingdom) suffered most sensibly, as being the place of the greatest confluence of his majesties forces for reducing the highlands, whereby not only the corns of the crops 1689 and 1690, particularly these belonging to this community and the hospital and poor there, were almost entirely cut down by the troops, but also by the continuing forcing upon us in such numbers as the condition of the place can hardly support, the prices of victual and other revivers which we ordinary had here at the easiest rates of the kingdom have been these many years and doe yet continue to be at a greater height with us then any of the neighbouring places. And beside the manifest and known decay of our trade in those things that are the native product of this place of the kingdom, we do suffer in a singular manner in the trade of salmon, and that by reason of a extraordinary imposition thereupon by the French, beside the 50 sols per tonne imposed by them upon all Scots boats.
All which hardships and calamities we have hitherto most patiently suffered, albeit the pressures we had to bear by our losses and disadvantages and quartering such considerable numbers of forces upon us were just grounds of complaint and might have moved redress, especially seeing as to the losses of our corns. We had good reason to expect a effective course of action to be taken with us from that satisfaction proposed by the act of parliament these three months past and hearth money, and the peace gave us hopes that improvements would appear and recompense and make up all our other losses.
And seeing that we have repeated promises from his majesty for the encouragement of our trade and his gracious letter to the present meeting of parliament, in which he regrets the kingdom’s losses and is pleased to promise all favour and protection to his subjects of this kingdom, from all which we are encouraged to entreat that;
It may please your grace and the right honourable the estates of parliament to take this petition to your serious consideration, and find out proper and effectual methods for asserting the honour and independence of this kingdom, which now seems to be so much injured by the constant attacks on our colony of Caledonia, and to assert the nation’s right, which has been and still is called in question, and to give such support to trade as that colonists may be encouraged, which his majesty, by his gracious promises, has given them grounds to expect; and that trading with France may be discharged by removing the prohibition of their importing our herring and salmon and Scots ships used in the traffic; and also to remove the ban on the import of cloth so that Scots manufacturers may be encouraged and the poor rightly employed, and the import of English cloth, silk and woollen and the wearing of it in the nation, at lastly the ban on exporting our linen cloth to England be removed.
And to relieve our country of the large numbers of forces, which are so burdensome and unfriendly to the people, and to introduce other methods for securing the peace and support of the government as may be most for the satisfaction and interest of the kingdom.
And, to provide support to this burgh in its distress and decayed condition, to think upon some effectual means such that our ancient bridge upon Tay, which was so necessary and useful to the whole kingdom, and particularly of singular use and convenience to his majesty’s forces upon all occasions, may be rebuilt.
Signed this day 9 January 1710 by 40 guid men of Perth
9 January 1701: Petition of the Stewartry of Orkney – New Edinburgh – Darien
Sir, After a long and expensive war we had expected to have enjoyed the blessings of a happy concluded peace by the re-establishing of our foreign trade, encouraging of home manufacturers, employing of the poor in the improvement of the native product of the kingdom and the lessening of our public burdens, but instead, to the unspeakable loss and almost ruin of the nation, we find the trade of the nation in general and ours in particular decay, and our coins taken away by the importation of commodities from places where ours are prohibited; our woollen and other manufacturers at home, by the same means and the remiss of magistrates in putting the laws in due execution, receive not that encouragement which the interest of the kingdom requires, our poor are neither supported nor employed as they should be; and that our Company trading to Africa and the Indies meets with so much opposition from abroad and gets so little support at home, that, after so great a loss of men and expense of the kingdoms treasure, their settlement in Caledonia is in great danger of a second time falling under the same untimely and unlucky circumstances as at first, if not prevented.
And yet after all these hardships which the nation groans under, numerous numbers of forces are still kept on foot while our much wealthier neighbours are disbanding, which occasions now in time of peace heavy and unnecessary taxes. It’s also well known to this honourable court of parliament what sad disadvantages our country lies under by reason of our situation in so northern and cold a climate, and in lying so far distant from the supreme courts of the kingdom where lasting relief is to be had in all cases, which distance is so much the more grievous because of the great and tempestuous seas to be negotiated, which disadvantages us.
we have also to add the extreme calamity of these five last years, which, due to miserable harvests, and the rigid oppression of taxmen and farmers of his majesty’s review, who are both our judges and executioners, that thousands of our people have been killed and starved and almost brought the whole country to ruin. And it’s very well known that when our country was under our Chamberlin, his majesty’s revenue was not only better paid, the king’s property fully possessed and laboured (which now for the most part is lying waste, only occasioned by the oppression and exorbitant actions of the taxmen as said is), but also is much paid by us to his majesty as the taxmen have paid for the several years of there tax.
And we must further lay before your grace and honourable estates of parliament that amongst others of our misfortunes and oppressions that although by the several acts of parliament and acts of the commissioners for payment of cess and supply to his majesty, there was always regard made to his majesty’s property and the bishopry in our country to bear and pay, conform to the valuation what was from time to time imposed. Yet the taxmen and farmers, through there wilful neglect in not paying their due proportions, although wee did pay our proportions on time, yet for the failures on the taxmens part we have been always forced upon, to our great loss, for remedy. we did apply to the lords of his majesty’s treasury, but got no answer from them.
May it therefore please your grace and right honourable estates of parliament to improve matters taking action curbing vice and putting in place good laws for maintaining and employing the poor, that they may be useful and not burdensome to the kingdom; and for the encouragement of our manufacturers and carrying on our trade with advantage, to withdraw such imposition on the branches of our import as may overbalance our export, and particularly that of France; and to assert the Indian and African Companies right to their colony of Caledonia, which is still called in question, and to give support to it, which, if vigorously carried out, may tend so much in the future to the wealth, honour and interest of the nation; and to relieve the kingdom of so great a number of forces now in time of peace so uneasy to the people; and to appoint tariffs yearly to be struck in our country for the several species of victual, oil and butter payable to his majesty, which his majesty’s other vassals in the kingdom have the benefit of (with regard to our grain, which is a third higher than any in the kingdom), and as to the butter and oil, to liquidate the same to sixteen pound per barrel of butter and twelve pounds per barrel of oil, conforming for the said duties in the said Stewartry, whereby and by the blessing of God our poor, miserable and much depleted population may recover to its former consistency while under the chamberlains, his majesty’s property (now for most part waste) again possessed, wee will be more enabled to pay his majesty’s revenues. As also take some effectual course for preventing the said unjust quartering of forces for the deficiencies of his majesty’s property upon us, who are not liable.
Signed this day 9 January 1710 by 70 guid men of Orkney