In 1706, the Society people of the Hebronites voiced their opposition to the Union…
‘But to leave this for a little, it will not be amiss to touch at the Incorporating Union of Scotland and England, which was about that time warmly agitat, and which was still disliked by the Godly in this Land, yea and by the generality of the Inhabitants, as a Treaty that would endanger our whole Civil and Sacred Interests. From the very time that this project was known to be really on foot, Mr. [John] H[epburn]. in his Sermons declared against it as being an open and undenyable breach of Covenant, and discovered from time to time the many Evils he discerned to be in it; and likeways not being content with speaking against it in the places where he Preached [>p250] he with us his Adherents in South and West [shires] Protested in manner following.
To His Grace, Her Majestie’s High Commissoner, [James Douglas, Duke of Queensberry,] and Honourable Estates of Parliament, The Humble Address of a Considerable Body of People in the South and Western Shires.
We undersubcribers being Commissionate and Appointed by many Christian Societies in the South and Western Shires of this Kingdom for the Effect following, considering how much the Union treated of at present, may be of dangerous Consequence to the Civil and Sacred Liberties and Concerns of this Nation; and how it is like, if carryed on, to involve the Nation in much Guilt.
1mo. We Incorporat with a Nation deeply Guilty of many National Abominations, who have openly Broke and Burnt their Covenant with GOD, and League with Us, entered into in the Year 1643.
Are Sworn to the Maintainance of Abjured Prelacy, have their Publick and Established Worship horridly corrupted with Superstition and Idolatry; And their Doctrine dreadfully Leavened with Socinianism and Arminianism, Besides the most Gross and Deeply lamentable Profaneness that abounds among[s]t them. [>p251.]
2do. We would thereby bind up our Hands from Prosecuting the Ends of our League and Covenant, while Incorporating with them upon Terms quite Prejudicial thereunto, And such as whereby we could not but dishonour our GOD, and bring His Wrath upon us, on this Account; And hence for our parts, the Fear of GOD makes us abhore any thoughts of thus Imbodying with them, or of any Union whatsoever of that sort, without making this our joint Covenant the Primary and Fundamental Article thereof.
3tio. We can never for our Parts Own or Connive at the Civil Places of Church-Men, and that Bishops should have a Legislative Power, and Authority over us: Yea, We reckon the Title of Spiritual Lords, given to them as Blasphemous, The Lord CHRIST being the One only LORD in His Own House.
4to. It is an Extream Grievance to us, to think, That not only the Interest of the Church of England should be secured by an Oath of Abjuration, while that of ours is left to the Will and Discretion of the English in a British Parliament. But withal, for any thing we see or hear of as yet; Many in this Nation will be obliged to take the said Oath: Which considering the 2d. Act of Parliament, To which it refers, cannot be done, without both Inferring Guilt on our Part, Endangering our Church, and inevitably causing many Jealousies, Heart-burnings, and most grievous Ruptures amongst us.
5to. When we think how the Great GOD, who fixes the Bounds of Peoples Habitations, [>p252] has granted to us this Land; And by a very peculiar Providence has Preserved us as a FREE NATION, these 2000 Years, when many other Nations, Greater and Mightier than We have been Dispersed, and their Memory extinct; How unaccountable does it appear to us, that we should Destroy our Selves, and make a Voluntar surrender of our Liberties, Soveraignity, and Independency; And that when our GOD has so often interposed by a Marvellous Providence for our Deliverance and Defence, from the Encroachments and Invasions of Forreigners, and Injurious Neighbours! We should now distrust our PROTECTOR, and chuse England for the ground of our Confidence, our Shield and Stay, Which as we look upon as contrary to GOD’s Word. So l[ik]e wise to our SACRED COVENANTS, Whereby, according thereto, we are bound to maintain the Privilegesof our Parliaments, and Liberties of the Subjects.
6to. We cannot see what Security we can have for what ever is dear to us, that we need to have secured in case of an Incorporating Union with England, save only their bare Promise, who have broken the most Solemn Tyes of Sacred Engagements, and all Bonds of friendship, Confederacy and Neighbour hood, these Hundred Years bygone, to the estream hurt, & hazard both of our Church and State, and have even still, since ever we came under one Head with them, been in appearance seeking our Ruine. [>p253]
7mo. For any thing we can see, if this Union should go on, either we behooved to Ruine our Selves by submitting to a Toleration, destructive to our own Government and Discipline; or else to put our Honest Neighbours (some of the Dissenters) in England, in hazard of Losing theirs, since it will no doubt be pleaded, that the Dissenters in both Parts of the Nation should be equally dealt with; And yet for us we cannot without Horror think of the Sin, and sinful Consequences of a Toleration here.
8vo. Our Hearts do Tremble to think what bitter Fruits of Faction, Parties, and incurable Breaches the going into this Union may produce, and how easie an Access thro’ this and the great Ferment of the Nation it may make for the pretended King James the Eight to come to the Throne; At least we cannot understand how this Union can put a Bar thereupon, but rather have strong and not groundless Fears of its tending to the contrary – And as to the matter of Rents, and Irritation among these in our Bounds, We are very sure that they who have hitherto complained of the continuance, by Act of Parliament, of so many Prelatists in Churches, of the Connivance at others in Meeting houses, of Incroachments made on Assembles in their Adjournments and Dissolution; and otherwise also in the matters of Fasts and Oaths; And of the not duly Executing of good laws against Papists, Quakers, and [>p254] other Heretical and Profanely Scandalous Persons, will then have their Grievances greatly increased, and who knows what may be the Issue thereof.
9no. We cannot see how it can consist with this Union, to endeavour to bring to condign Punishment Malignants, or Enemies to Reformation, which is plain Duty in it self, and to which we stand Solemnly engaged by our Covenants; Yea, such being readied to take the Sacramental Test of England, are nearest to advancement, and no Scots man can be Advanced in England without it, whereas any Englishman may be in place of Trust in Scotland, how opposit soever to our Government.
Upon all which and many more such Weighty Reasons, we could offer, and are offered by others, who seek the welfare of the Church, and Kingdom, Tho we solemnly Protest and Profess, that we are not against an Union in the LORD, with England, And such as may be confident with the Liberty of our Nation, and with our sacred Covenants, and security of our Church; Yet we cannot but also Protest, Likeas hereby we do Protest, against this Union as Moulded in the Printed Articles; Neither do we judge our selves bound thereby, tho’ a prevailing Party in Parliament should conclude the same; But will stand by such Noble Patriots, with Life and Fortune, as are for the Maintainance and Defence of the Nations Independency and Freedom, and this Churches just Power, and proper Privilege, conform to our attained Reformation from 1638 to 1649. [>p255]
This in Name, of many Christian Societies United into a considerable Body of People, in the South and Western Shires of this Kingdom, is Subscribed this 12th day of November, 1706
J. Millar.’ (Humble Pleadings (1713), 248-55.)
The Hebronites’ ‘Humble Address’ was subscribed on Tuesday, 12 November, 1706, the same day that it was submitted to Parliament in Edinburgh. The minutes of Parliament record the submission of an ‘address of a body of people in the south and western shires, subscribed by Mr John Hepburn and another seven persons’ (RPS, M1706/10/20.)
The ‘Humble Address’ had been agreed to at an earlier general meeting, as the eight delegates who subscribed it were ‘Commissionate and Appointed by many Christian Societies in the South and Western Shires of this Kingdom’. The address was also submitted in the name ‘of many Christian Societies United into a considerable Body of People, in the South and Western Shires of this Kingdom’. In 1705, Clerk of Penicuik estimated the strength of the Hebronites at 3,000 to 4,000.
The eight subscribers were probably delegated by the general meeting to go to Edinburgh to take the pulse of the members of Parliament about the proposed Union, which was then being debated and had caused widespread disquiet among the People. The delegates almost certainly subscribed the document in Edinburgh.
Eight days later on 20 November, the Hebronites, in the classic mode of the Society people that usurped the theatre of royal authority, publicly burnt the articles of Union, a list of the Scottish commissioners who had negotiated it and issued a declaration against the Union at the mercat cross of Dumfries. The declaration was carefully framed to have widespread appeal among the opponents of Union. Rather than listing the specific, mainly religious, grievances of the Hebronites against the proposed Union found in the ‘Humble Address’, it grounded its appeal in the national and constitutional rhetoric found in the popular petitions submitted to Parliament against the Union.
The obvious next step after the declaration was to take up arms against the Union and descend on Edinburgh to raise Parliament. The declaration carried that threat: ‘we are Confident, that the Soldiers not in Martial power, have somuch of the Spirits of SCOTS MEN; that they are not Ambitious to be Dispose of, at the pleasure of another Nation: And we hereby Declare, that we have no Design against them in this matter.’ The Society people appear to have been relatively confident that the rank and file of the Scottish Army either were, or could be, persuaded not to oppose their designs.
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