Thursday, January 18, 2007

Scotland in the eighteenth century

From the point of view of London, the main problem following the union of 1707 was the Jacobites, whose strongholds were in the inaccessible Highlands. Historians are divided about the extent of the Jacobite threat but however weak and ineffective the supporters of the Stuarts might have been, they could be used by hostile foreign powers. This had happened, for example, in 1719, when Spain supported an abortive invasion.

Government policy towards the Highlands was (a) to support the Campbells, the main Whig clan, (b) to support bodies such as the SPCK and (c) to keep a standing army the north centred on garrison forts like Fort William, Fort Augustus and Inverness.

In 1724 General George Wade was sent to Scotland. His subsequent report recommended the construction of military roads.
The first of these, from Dunkeld to Inverness, began in 1730. In 1739 he enlisted the loyal clans in the Black Watch regiment, its function to look out for cattle thieves and Jacobites. The men wore kilts and marched to the sound of bagpipes. In May 1745 they fought at Fontenoy.

Three months later Prince Charles Edward Stuart, raised his standard at Glenfinnan to rally the Jacobite clans. In September he entered Edinburgh with 2,000 men and defeated the army of General Cope at Prestonpans. In November the Jacobites marched into England but the English Jacobites failed to join them and having reached Derby in December the army retreated back to Scotland. In April they were defeated at Culloden.

The main reason for the Young Pretender’s failure was that he arrived in Scotland without the backing of a French force. But he also found less support in Scotland than he expected. Glasgow, which had profited from the Union, was solidly Whig and the Presbyterian clergy were adamantly opposed. Although the ’45 was subsequently constructed as a Scottish uprising against an oppressive England, in reality, Scotland was deeply divided over a Stuart restoration.

The government believed it had learned one vital lesson from Culloden: the powers of the Jacobite clans had to be broken. In 1747 the chiefs lost their hereditable jurisdictions, their lands were forfeited and the administration handed over to a Committee of Forfeited Estates, Highlanders were forbidden to bear arms, wear the kilt or play bagpipes, and all private schools were banned. For a generation, the Highlands were under an army of occupation.

The result was a dramatic social change as the clans at last submitted to the rule of law and the dictates of the British parliament. When Samuel Johnson and James Boswell visited the Highlands in 1773, they found themselves in a peaceful society, with the chiefs converted into landlords. In 1782 the wearing of the kilt was again permitted and in 1784 the forfeited estates were handed back to their previous owners. By this time clan regiments had distinguished themselves in the Seven Years War and the Highlands were coming to be seen as exotic and romantic rather than barbarous.

In 1760 James Macpherson published the English-language text Fragments of Ancient Poetry collected in the Highlands of Scotland, and later that year obtained further manuscripts. In 1761 he claimed to have found an epic on the subject of the hero Fingal, written by Ossian. He published translations of it during the next few years, culminating in a collected edition; The Works of Ossian, in 1765. The most famous of these poems was 'Fingal 'written in 1762. These poems caused a European sensation later influencing Goethe and Napoleon.

The Jacobite threat was effectively over in 1746 and by the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle France gave up its support for the Stuarts. But English resentment at the Scots did not die down. The perception grew in England that the Scots were swarming south and taking English jobs. An example was William Murray who came to school in England at the age of fourteen, read for the English bar, married and Englishwoman and became Lord Chief Justice in 1757. It was with him in mind that Johnson said, ‘
Much may be made of a Scotsman, if he be caught young
When James Boswell came to London in 1762 he encountered genuine anti-Scottish hostility in a London theatre and a half-teasing, half-serious hostility from Samuel Johnson.
The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees is the high road that leads him to England.(6 July 1763)
Would the English tolerate a Scottish Prime Minister?