Read and annotate by 7th November

Read and annotate this text by Daniel Defoe on Scotland after the Union.

Some basic elements of background on the Anglo-Scottish union of 1707

By the Act of Union of 1707 England and Scotland united into the United Kingdom of Great Britain. By this Act, the Scottish Parliament and government disappeared and the English Parliament became the one single Parliament for the whole of the United Kingdom. Scottish Lords and Commons now sat in the London Parliament.

That it was Scotland who lost its Parliament and not England is telling. Scotland was very much the junior partner in the new United Kingdom, being both a smaller and poorer country than England. The Union therefore amounted to a certain loss of independence for Scotland. However the Act of Union guaranteed the continuance of legal and religious specificities to which the Scots were attached. Ancestral Scottish law continued to hold sway in a great number of areas and the Church of Scotland, which was Presbyterian, not Anglican, was guaranteed its independence from the Church of England.

In fact Scotland had a lot to gain from the Union economically. The expansion of England’s Empire across the Atlantic could now profit Scotland. English law (by the Navigation Acts) gave the monopoly of the very profitable transatlantic trade with the English colonies to English subjects only. With the creation of the United Kingdom, this monopoly now extended to all subjects of the British crown. In other words, whereas Scottish merchants had been excluded from the booming transatlantic trade with the English colonies prior to the Union, the creation of the United Kingdom made it possible for the Scots to become important actors in that trade. The English colonies had now become British colonies and the Scots now had as much right to trade with them (and indeed settle in British America) as the English.

On the whole therefore, while a number of Scottish people mourned the loss of their independence, the overall majority (and particularly all those involved in trade and commerce) saw the Union as a good deal. 

When reading the text and annotating, you should aim to answer the following questions:

  • What kind of person is Daniel Defoe and what is it reasonable to think is his agenda when he writes this text?
  • What message does he try to convey and with which arguments?
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