So Near Was the Union to Receiving a Fatal Blow

Portrait of John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll and Duke of Greenwich (1678-1743) by William Aikman (died 1731), ca. 1720-1725, National Portrait Gallery, London.
Portrait of John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll and Duke of Greenwich (1678-1743) by William Aikman (died 1731), ca. 1720-1725, National Portrait Gallery, London.

——— Imperial Jove,
He reigns unquestion’d in his Realms above;
No Title from Descent he need infer,
His red right Arm proclaims the Thunderer,
This, Campbell, be thy Pride, Illustrious Peer,
Alike to shine distinguish’d in your Sphere,
All Merit but your own you may disdain,
And Kings have been your Ancestors in vain.

Mr. Pope on reading the Preamble to the Patent creating his Grace Duke of Greenwich.

* * *

The Scotch, while the [Malt Tax] Bill was depending in the House of Commons, argued strenuously against it; but when it passed that House, all of them unanimously agreed to lay aside all invidious Distinctions of Whig or Tory, and to endeavour either to be redressed in their Grievances, or dissolve the Union; for which Purpose they had several Meetings, and on the sixth of May deputed four of their Members, viz. the Duke of Argyle, the Earl of Mar, Mr. Lockhart, and Mr. Cockburn, to attend the Queen, and make a Remonstrance in the Name of the whole Scotch Representation. The Substance of which was,  ‘That their Countrymen bore with great Impatience the Violation of some Articles the Act of Union, and the laying such an insupportable Burthen as the Malt-Tax upon them, was like to raise their Discontent to such a Height, as to promote them to declare the Union dissolv’d.’  To this unexpected verbal Remonstrance the Queen answer’d,  ‘This was a precipitate Resolution, and she wished they might not have Reason to repent it, but however she would endeavour to make all Things easy.’  Upon the Deputies Report to the Scotch Members, the next Day, of the Queen’s Answer, they resolved before they proceeded any farther, to apply to the House of Lords. Accordingly on Thursday the 28th of May, the Earl of Seafield made a Motion that some Day might be appointed to take into Consideration the State of the Nation, and Monday the first of June was appointed, and all the Peers summoned to be present on this important Debate, which was opened by the same Nobleman, who pathetically laid open the Grievances of the Scotch Nation; which he reduced to four Heads, ‘1.Their being deprived of a Privy Council: 2. The Laws of England in Cases of Treason extended to Scotland: 3. The Peers of Scotland being incapable of being made Peers of Great Britain, as was judged in the Case of the Duke of Hamilton: And, 4. The Scots being subjected to the Malt-Tax; which Would be more insupportable to them now, in that they never bore it during the War, and had Reason to expect to reap and enjoy the Benefits of a Peace.’  Concluding,  ‘That since the Union had not those good Effects as were expected and hoped from it when it was made, he therefore moved, that leave might be given to bring in a Bill for dissolving the said Union, and securing the Protestant Succession in the House of Hanover, securing the Queen’s Prerogative in both Kingdoms, and preserving an entire Amity and good Correspondence between the two Kingdoms.’  This Motion was seconded by the Earl of Mar, and a great many Scotch Peers. Those who spoke for the Dissolution was the Duke of Argyle; the Earls of Islay, Eglintoun, Nottingham, and Sunderland; the Lord Viscount Townshend; the Lords Hallifax, Powlet, Scarborough, and Scarsdale. Those who spoke against it were the Lord North and Grey, the Lord Earl Peterborough, the Lord Chief Justice Trevor, and the Lord Treasurer Oxford. The Arguments against the Dissolution were chiefly drawn from the Impossibility; the Lords on that side supposing it impossible to dissolve it: comparing it to a Marriage, which once made, could not be broke. That this Union was concluded with so much Solemnity, that nothing could be more Solemn, except it came down from Heaven like the Ten Commandments. They did not pretend so much to deny that the Scotch had not Grievances to complain of, but that some other Remedy might be found out to ease them than dissolving the Union. With some little Reflections on the Poverty and Temper of the Scots; who would have all the Advantages of the Union with England, and yet with their good Will would not pay one Farthing towards the common Expence.

The Lords on the opposite side argued, That however solemn the Treaty of Union might be, yet the Power which made it might dissolve it. They expatiated, upon their Grievances; which they said were the more intollerable, as the general Confidence they had placed in the Faith of the English Nation, for which they had desired no Guarantee, gave them all the Reason in the World to expect other Usage. They owned the Country poor, and that was the Reason they complained of the Imposition of the Malt-Tax. That they were willing to bear their stipulated Proportion of the necessary Expences of the Nation; but they had no Reason to expect that they should be taxed above their Power. The Duke of Argyle, in a handsome but warm Speech, among other Things said, ‘That he was by some reflected on as if he was disgusted, and had changed Sides; but that he despised those Persons as much as he undervalued their judgments. That it was true he had a great Hand in making the Union: That the chief Reason that moved him to it, was the securing the Protestant Succession ; but that he was satisfied that might be done now as well if the Union was dissolved: That he spoke as a Peer of England as well as of Scotland: That he believed in his Conscience it was as much for the Interest of England to have it dissolved, as that of Scotland: And if it was not, he did not expect long to have Property left in Scotland, or Liberty in England. He urged, That the Tax upon Malt in Scotland was as unequal, tho’ the same as in England, as taxing Land by the Acre; which would be very unjust, the Land being worth five or six Pound per Acre here about London, and not more Shillings in some Parts of the Country: That this was the Case between the Scotch and the English Malt; the latter being worth three or four Shillings per Bushel, the other not above one. So if that Tax was collected in Scotland, it must be done by a Regiment of Dragoons.’  Several English Lords were for putting off the Debate till a farther Day, that the Peers might have time to consider of a Matter of such Consequence. To this last Opinion of a Delay, the Earls of Mar and Loudon join’d, and so lost the Bill; for the Question being put on the Earl of Seafield‘s Motion, it was carried in the Negative by four Voices only; there being fifty four Lords on each Side present, seventeen Proxies on the Negative, and but thirteen on the Affirmative; so near was the Union to receiving a fatal Blow.

— Robert Campbell, Esq., The Life of the Most Illustrious Prince, John, Duke of Argyle and Greenwich, Belfast: F. Joy, 1745.

Published by Christian Clay Columba Campbell

Christian Clay Columba Campbell is a Roman Catholic of the Anglican Use. As Senior Warden of the Cathedral of the Incarnation (Orlando, FL), he organised the process by which the parish accepted the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, petitioning to join the Catholic Church. The Anglican Cathedral is now the Church of the Incarnation in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Personal queries should be directed to me at eccentricbliss dot com.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply