A Secret Letter of the Spy Daniel Defoe in 1706 #History #Scotland
As the Union Crisis mounted in Scotland, the English spy Daniel Defoe reported rumours that the Covenanters of the South and West were about to rise to raise Parliament and stop the Union. In Glasgow, the mob had made their opposition to Union clear. Defoe requested English troops on the Border…
In the Scottish ‘Parliament things go right enough [in the debates over the Treaty of Union], but really everywhere else the nation is in strange confusion, and the threatenings of the Church party are very high and plain. […] The lenity of the Government is taken as fear, and the Kirk [of Scotland] is stark mad that they have, as they say, no security and that their Articles are rejected.
The Cameronian [humble] address [to Parliament of 12 November], though of no great moment, I send because you should see some of the spirit, for though [Mr John] Hepburn that sends it is a mad man, that is mad in zeal, and has been deposed and disowned by the Kirk, yet they talk his very language now every day in their common discourse, and I dined to-day with a [presbyterian] minister who told me were the weather permitting they would have been at Edinburgh before now with 15,000 men.’ (Manuscripts of His Grace the Duke of Portland, IV, 351-2.)
Four days later on Wednesday 20 November, armed Covenanters declared against the Union at Dumfries.
Defoe’s letter also dealt with the tumults in Glasgow:
‘The rabble at Glasgow has driven the Provost out of the town, and he is fled hither [to Edinburgh]; the reason was he would not address [against the Union for the burgh]. They have sent up their Address and a great many [among the burgh elite] whose hands are to it have sent up letters to [the Earl of Seafield] the Lord Chancellor, that they were forced to sign it against their minds; yet the address was received and read, the Provost flying for his life. They have broken up his house and plundered or defaced his goods. […] They exercise their men and appear with arms and drums in Glasgow, and indeed those things tend to a strange conclusion. The next sitting of Parliament will enter on the main question, I mean the third article [creating the UK Parliament], and if it pass we shall see whether they dare make any disturbance or no.
I wish her Majesty would be pleased to have some [English] forces on the border, for if there is the least violence here all will be in blood; an appearance of some regiments on the border would at least encourage the troops here, who are not otherwise to be depended on.
You will excuse my presumption in offering anything that looks like direction; no doubt her Majesty will let nothing be wanting here to succour that interest which appears so hearty, and which if they are not supported will, if an accident happens, be sacrificed to all manner of the most barbarous insults.’ (Manuscripts of His Grace the Duke of Portland, IV, 352.)
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