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Scotland - Union with England

With the beginning of the reign of Mary (1542) Scotland made a new departure and entered on a period which definitely closed with the Revolution of 1689. The dominating fact of the period was the adoption of Protestantism in place of Catholicism as the national religion (1560). The immediate result of the change of religion was alienation from France as a Catholic country and approach to England, with an ever-growing conviction on the part of both peoples that political union was in the interests of both. But there were other results from the religious revolution which permanently affected the national character and the future of the country. For the first time in the nation's history an issue was presented which the public mind was mature enough to comprehend and which was of a nature to evoke the inherent contrarieties of thought and feeling which divide man from man.

The Scottish and English crowns were unified in 1603 when King James VI of Scotland became overall monarch of the British isles. The marriage of Marjory Bruce, daughter of King Robert Bruce I to Walter Fitz Alan, the High Steward of Scotland, was the foundation of the royal house of Stewart. The descendants of Robert Bruce in the Stewart dynasty maintained themselves first on the throne of Scotland and then on that of England for more than three hundred years. The succession on the Scottish throne was Robert II, Robert III, James I, James II, James III, James IV, James V, Mary (the unfortunate Queen of Scots), and James VI.

On the death in 1603 of Queen Elizabeth of England, last surviving offspring of Henry VIII, her cousin James VI of Scotland, lineally the nearest heir, was proclaimed king of England, in accordance with a declaration of Elizabeth that no minor person should ascend the throne, but her cousin the king of Scots. The accession of James was, however, contrary to the will of Henry VIII, which favored the Suffolk branch, whose succession would probably have marvelously altered the complexion of both Scottish and English history. James VI of Scotland united the two crowns, becoming James I of England. His dynastic successors in England were Charles I, Charles II, James II, Mary, consort of William of Orange; and Anne.

From the change of religion and the political consequences it involved there resulted a collision between two types of mind which had been in antagonism ever since. But this very collision of opposites produced a quickening of the general consciousness which made Scotland a nation in the strictest sense of the word. From the Reformation to the Revolution the country was cleft in twain by two opposing principles and two opposing parties, between which compromise was impossible and political equilibrium was unattainable. On the one side were the successive Stewart kings who aimed at absolute control in Church and State, and on the other, the religious party which adopted Presbyterianism as its form of church polity and which maintained the Church's independence of the State. After a struggle that had lasted above a century came the Revolution of 1689, when England and Scotland both cast out the House of Stewart and a new order began.

For Scotland as for England the Revolution marks the beginning of the modern time. Throughout the foregoing period theological considerations had dominated the public mind equally in affairs of Church and State; henceforward secular interests become more and more the impelling motives that determine the action at once of the State and of the individual. The immediate result of this changed attitude was the union of the England and Scottish Parliaments in 1707. In the previous century ecclesiastical differences had been a bar to this union; now considerations of reciprocal interests determined both nations to accept it.

For Scotland the union was a necessity if she was to take her place among the nations. Hitherto she had labored under disadvantages which, in spite of the strenuous efforts of her people, had impeded her free development. Her remote situation, her limited area of arable soil, her long antagonism to England, her political and religious distractions, and, as the result of all these concurrent disadvantages, the meagreness of capital, had crippled her in all her efforts to develop her resources and to compete with more fortunate nations.

The immediate consequences of the union, however, did not give promise of the future that was in store for her. The old jealousies between the two partners increased rather than abated, and for fully half a century Scotland sullenly acquiesced in a union into which (such was the feeling generally expressed) she had been entrapped by unscrupulous statesmen, and from which she had only received insult and injury. The Jacobite risings of 1715 and 1745 are the significant commentary on the state of feeling even in the Lowlands, but, as the issue of both enterprises proved, the heart of the nation was too deeply committed to the new order to revert to a regime that would have been inherently opposed to the spirit of the new time.

By the middle of the 18th century the advantages that accrued from the union were no longer doubtful, and henceforward the industrial and commercial progress of the country exceeded the expectations of its most sanguine advocates. Manufactures multiplied; the mineral wealth of the country and the riches of its seas were utilized for the first time on an extensive scale. Foreign trade had hitherto been almost entirely restricted to the exchange of commodities with the countries bordering on the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, but by the opening up of trade with America, Glasgow, Greenock, and Paisley mere villages at the time of the union grew into great towns and important commercial centers.

Hitherto, also, the three types of burghs, peculiar to Scotland Burghs of Barony, Burghs of Regality, and Royal Burghs only the last had enjoyed the privilege of foreign trade in staple commodities, but this privilege gradually fell into abeyance, and everj- burgh with sufficient enterprise was at liberty to compete with its neighbors. In connection with the burghs a further progress has to be noted. In Scotland, as in other countries during the Middle Ages, trade and commerce had been shackled by conditions, necessary at the time but which were incompatible with free national development. Only Royal Burghs had possessed the privilege of being the homes of the great industrial crafts; in all the three types of burghs only burgesses had the right of pursuing any form of trade; jealous rivalry prevented free commercial intercourse between the different towns of the kingdom; and, finally, the fixing oi the prices of commodities by the town councils or by the state obstructed the natural competition which is the life of trade. Later than in England, though not later than in France and Germany, these restrictions gradually ceased to be operative, and in 1846 "exclusive privileges" in trade and commerce were formally abolished by an Act of Parliament.

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Page last modified: 15-03-2017 18:20:29 ZULU