ACT OF UNION.] A coherent tract volume of ten pamphlets, for and against the Union, published in 1705-6.

Small 4to., in excellent condition apart from a scattering of small wormholes in the last three pamphlets, not really affecting text; attractive contemporary panelled calf labelled ‘UNION PAMPH’, spine slightly rubbed.


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ACT OF UNION.] A coherent tract volume of ten pamphlets, for and against the Union, published in 1705-6.

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The months leading up to the Act of Union in January 1707 were a time of heated debate in Scotland. Politicians, writers, the landed gentry, churchmen, and others joined in making their opinions known in tracts and speeches. To pressures from an England anxious to ensure a Protestant succession were added economic pressures from the failure of the Darien project, the promised access for Scottish trade to England’s commercial empire, and the promise of greater security. Daniel Defoe was one of the agents sent to Scotland to promote the advantages of Union. On the other side there was much talk of Scotland’s ancient traditions, fears for the preservation of Scottish Presbyterian church government, and worries about increased taxes and customs duties.

The most passionate speech against the Union, a great piece of political oratory (no. 9 below), was delivered in Parliament on 2 November 1706 by John Hamilton, second Lord Belhaven, predicting a bleak future:

I think, I see a Free and Independent Kingdom delivering up That, which all the World hath been fighting for … to wit, A Power to Manage their own Affairs …. I think I see the Valliant and Gallant Soldiery … petitioning for a small subsistence …. I think I see the Honest Industrious Tradsman loaded with new Taxes … drinking Water in place of Ale, eating his fatless Pottage …. I think I see the Laborious Plew-man, with his Corns spoiling upon his Hands, for want of Sale, Cursing the day of his Birth, dreading the Expense of his Burial, and uncertain whether to Marry or do worse.

But Belhaven was in a minority as it became increasingly apparent that Scotland, virtually bankrupt from the Darien disaster, did not have any real choice. The Act ratifying the Treaty of Union was passed on 16 January 1707 by 110 votes to 69, and the independent Scottish Parliament sat for the last time on 25 March.

The pamphlets included are as follows:

First edition of the most celebrated of all the speeches against the Union, ‘a most emotional speech, intended in part at least for the express purpose of whipping up public sentiment’ (McLeod). There were a number of reprints, in quarto and octavo, and as a folio single sheet.  McLeod 241.

W. R. and V. B. McLeod, Anglo-Scottish Tracts, 1701-1714, a descriptive Checklist (University of Kansas Libraries, 1979).

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