At a recent Queen’s Birthday lunch, on 7 June 2007, Australians for Constitutional Monarchy also celebrated the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Union of 1 May 2007 between England (and Wales) and Scotland. In many ways, the Union was the culmination of the Glorious Revolution which not only settled, finally, that long dispute between King and Parliament, but which laid the foundations of what was to become the world’s most successful and enduring form of government, constitutional monarchy under the Westminster system.
Both Scotland and England were to benefit, Scotland, or rather the Scots, being destined to make an enormous world wide contribution as British influence spread across the world.
Now in the Summer 2007 edition of The Salisbury Review, Vivian Linacre adds a further dimension to the benefits of the Union, benefits which seem today to be overlooked.
“The Union undoubtedly paid handsome early dividends. Marlborough’s victories, aided by peace at home, brought the war to a successful end with the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, guaranteeing international recognition for the Hanoverian regime. Scottish society and the economy adjusted (painfully at first) to the enormous dual benefit conferred by a strong state that conferred security with an efficient administration yet nevertheless largely ignored the Northern junior partner, leaving it free to develop a rapidly booming private sector based on laissez-faire as well as cultivate intellectual and scientific interests.
“The Scottish Enlightenment, which could never have arisen under the former, parochial, repressive establishment, created the modern world. This ferment pioneered the study of philosophy (David Hume and Thomas Reid), moral philosophy and sociology (Lord Kames and Frances Hutcheson), astronomy (James Ferguson), geology (James Hutton), chemistry (Joseph Black) and economics (Adam Smith). As David Hume himself remarked in 1757: ‘Is it not strange that at a time when we have lost our Princes, our Parliaments. our independent government. … we should really be the people most distinguished for Literature in Europe:’
”Not really strange, for they had at last got government off their backs. And Dugald Stewart referred to ‘the sudden burst of genius, which to a foreigner must seem have sprung up in this country by a sort of enchantment, soon after the Rebellion of 1745’.
“A week after the Act of Union, a Glasgow-owned ship made its maiden voyage of seven weeks to the tobacco landings on Chesapeake Bay. By 1758 – the year after Robert Clive conquered India and the year before James Wolfe captured Quebec – over 1,000 tons of tobacco was unloaded annually at Port Glasgow. By 1771 almost half of all American tobacco was in Scottish hands. By then, too, Glasgow boasted fourteen booksellers, in a city with a population of less than 40,000. By 1790 more than half of all students enrolled at Glasgow University were sons of ‘industry and commerce’, compared with less than 10 percent at Cambridge.
”All this was achieved in a climate of minimal government – far away in London – and a climate free from chauvinism. The great inventors, thinkers and writers of the Enlightenment, the merchants and adventurers who expanded and pervaded the Empire, and so many of those who forged the agricultural and industrial revolutions, had two things in common: they were proud Scotsmen, certainly, and they had no truck with domestic politics.
”What an extreme contrast with Scotland today, ground down by endless EU regulations, bloated bureaucracy at every level, repression of liberties, state control of universities and an ever-expanding political class whose sole concern is the acquisition of power and public money! Under these crippling conditions, neither a Second Enlightenment nor Scottish independence is feasible. Which is a tragic irony, because the mood of the country and the abysmal quality of domestic politics should present the SNP with a unique opportunity.
”’Is it not strange that at a time when we have lost our Princes, our Parliaments, our independent government … we should really be the people most distinguished for Literature in Europe?’ Not really strange, for they had at last got government off their backs.”