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AFTER an arduous struggle, and by the most dexterous management on the part of the commissioners appointed for the purpose, the treaty of union between England and Scotland was finally concluded, and from the first of May 1707, the two kingdoms became indissolubly incorporated.
This wise and salutary measure had to encounter in every step of its progress, the sturdy pride, the haughty spirit of independence, and all the force of national prejudice incident to the Scotch character.
Among the most formidable of the opposition, both on account of the mighty sway of his talents, and the resoluteness of his temper, was the earl of Belhaven. Conceiving, in common with many other distinguished men, and a clear majority of the nation, that in the loss of her independent legislature, his country would experience a train of cala. mities, not more destructive to her prosperity, than degrading to her dignity, he waged a resistance to the hateful project with a constancy which the weight of regal influence could not shake, nor the pledge of honours and rewards seduce, or the snares of intrigue or artifice surprise.
The ensuing speech discloses his sentiments and his fears. Like the tremulous solicitudes of many other ardent patriots they proved to be visionary.
Not one of the groupe of misfortunes which he beheld through the vista of futurity was realized. The act of union on the contrary, gave wealth, and happiness, and strength to Scotland, and guarantied the grandeur and safety of the British empire.
MY LORD CHANCELLOR,
WHEN I consider the affair of a union betwixt the two nations, as it is expressed in the several articles thereof, and now the subject of our deliberation at this time, I find my mind crowded with a variety of melancholy thoughts; and I think it my duty to disburthen myself of some of them by laying them before, and exposing them to the serious consideration of this honourable house.
I think I see a free and independent kingdom delivering up that which all the world hath been fighting for since the days of Nimrod; yea, that for which most of all the empires, kingdoms, states, principalities, and dukedoms of Europe, are at this time engaged in the most bloody and cruel wars that ever were to wit, a power to manage their own affairs by themselves, without the assistance and counsel of any other.
I think I see a national church, founded upon a rock, secured by a claim of right, hedged and fenced about by the strictest and most pointed legal sanction that sovereignty could contrive, voluntarily descending into a plain, upon an equal level with Jews, Papists, Socinians, Arminians, Anabaptists, and other
I think I see the noble and honourable peerage of Scotland, whose valiant predecessors led armies against their enemies upon their own proper charges and expense, now devested of their followers and vassalages, and put upon such an equal foot with their vassals, that I think I see a petty English exciseman receive more homage and respect than what was paid formerly to their quondam Mackallamores.
I think I see the present peers of Scotland, whose noble ancestors conquered provinces, over-run countries, reduced and subjected towns and fortified places, exacted tribute through the greatest part of England, now walking in the court of requests, like so many English attornies, laying aside their walking swords when in company with the English peers,
lest their self defence should be found murder.
I think I see the honourable estate of barons, the bold assertors of the nation's rights and liberties in the worst of times, now setting a watch upon their lips, and a guard upon their tongues, lest they may be found guilty of scandalum magnatum.
I think I see the royal state of burghers walking their desolate streets, hanging down their heads under disappointments, wormed out of all the branches of their old trade, uncertain what hand to turn to, necessitated to become 'prentices to their unkind neighbours, and yet, after all, finding their trade so fortified by companies, and secured by prescriptions, that they despair of any success therein.
I think I see our learned judges laying aside their pratiques and decisions, studying the common law of England, gravelled with certioraris, nisi priuses, writs of errour, verdicts, injunctians, demurs, &c. and frighted with appeals and avocations, because of the new regulations and rectifications they may meet with.
I think I see the valiant and gallant soldiery either sent to learn the plantation trade abroad, or at home petitioning for a small subsistence, as a reward of their honourable exploits; while their old corps are broken, the common soldiers left to beg, and the youngest English corps kept standing.
I think I see the honest industrious tradesman loaded with new taxes and impositions, disappointed of the equivalents, drinking water in place of ale, eating his saltless pottage, petitioning for encouragement to his manufactures, and answered by counter petitions.
In short, I think I see the laborious ploughman, with his corn 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.
I think I see the incurable difficulties of the landed men, fettered under the golden chain of equivalents, their pretty daughters petitioning for want of husbands, and their sons for want of employment.
I think I see our mariners delivering up their ships to their Dutch partners, and what through presses and necessity, earning their bread as underlings in the royal English navy.
But above all, my lord, I think I see our ancient mother Caledonia, like Cesar, sitting in the midst of our senate, ruefully looking round about her, covering herself with her royal garment, attending the fatal blow, and breathing out her last with an Et tu quoque mi fili!
Áre not these, my lord, very afflicting thoughts? And yet they are but the least part suggested to me by these dishonourable articles. Should not the consideration of these things vivify these dry bones of ours? Should not the memory of our noble predecessors' valour and constancy rouse up our drooping spirits? Are our noble predecessors' souls got so far into the English cabbage stalk, and cauliflowers, that we should show the least inclination that way? Are our eyes so blinded, are our ears so deafened, are our hearts so hardened, are our tongues so faltered, are our hands so fettered, that in this our day, I say, my lord, in this our day, we should not mind the things that concern the very being, and well being of our ancient kingdom, before the day be hid from our eyes?
I design not at this time to enter into the merits of any one particular article. I intend this discourse as an introduction to what I may afterwards say upon the whole debate, as it falls in before this honourable house; and therefore, in the further prosecution of what I have to say, I shall insist upon a few particu
lars, very necessary to be understood before we enter into the detail of so important a matter.
I shall therefore, in the first place, endeavour to encourage a free and full deliberation, without animosities and heats. In the next place, I shall endeavour to make an inquiry into the nature and source of the unnatural and dangerous divisions that are now on foot within this isle, with some motives showing that it is our interest to lay them aside at this time. Then I shall inquire into the reasons which have induced the two nations to enter into a treaty of union at this time, with some considerations and meditations with relation to the behaviour of the lords commissioners of the two kingdoms in the management of this great concern. And lastly, I shall propose a method, by which we shall most distinctly, and without confusion go through the several articles of this treaty, without unnecessary repetitions or loss of time. And all this with all deference, and under the correction of this honourable house.
My lord chancellor, the greatest honour that was done unto a Roman, was to allow him the glory of a triumph; the greatest and most dishonourable punishment was that of parricide. He that was guilty of parricide was beaten with rods upon his naked body, till the blood gushed out of all the veins of his body; then he was sewed up in a leathern sack called a culeus, with a cock, a viper, and an ape, and thrown headlong into the sea.
My lord, patricide is a greater crime than parricide, all the world over."
In a triumph, my lord, when the conqueror was riding in his triumphal chariot, crowned with laurels, adorned with trophies, and applauded with huzzas! there was a monitor appointed to stand behind him, to warn him not to be high minded, nor puffed up with overweening thoughts of himself; and to his chariot were tied a whip and a bell, to remind him that for all his glory and grandeur, he was accountable to the people for his administration, and would be punished, as other men, if found guilty.