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History of Scotland: End of Jacobitism

Updated on August 26, 2014

For half a century after the union the basic political issue in Scotland was between supporters of the House of Hanover and union with England, and supporters of the House of Stuart and an independent Scotland.

On two occasions this led to civil wars (in 1715 and 1745-1746) but on neither occasion was there the slightest chance of a permanent Stuart victory. Only massive help from the court of France could have turned the tide, and this was not forthcoming. Even if it had been, the appearance of French Heets and armies on British coasts and battlefields would have provoked a national reaction fatal to the Stuart cause. By the mid-18th century, Jacobitism, or support for the exiled Roman Catholic Stuart pretenders, was moribund.

The end of political Jacobitism left the field clear for new political issues, but these were slow to develop. The 45 members elected by Scottish constituencies to the British House of Commons under the act of union and the 16 Scottish peers elected by their fellow peers to sit in the British House of Lords normally supported the government aid thus exerted more influence than they could have done if disunited. The act grouped Scottish burghs into single member constituencies, which, while as corrupt as the English borough constituencies of the day, were difficult to manage owing to local rivalries. The revival of genuine two-party politics is usually ascribed to the influence of the French Revolution. The friends of France and liberty organized themselves and held conventions in Edinburgh, but their leaders soon were arrested and transported.

The movement was driven underground, where it became associated with the early activities of trade unions in the industrial areas.


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