The Union of 1707: the historical context
The troubles of the 1690s
In the years between 1689 and 1707 the Scottish Parliament was in a bullish mood, keen to demonstrate its separateness from England. This stemmed from a number of events and challenges of the 1690s, during the reign of Mary, as the eldest daughter of James VII and II, and her husband William. Firstly, a decision was taken after the Revolution to restore the Presbyterian church as the established church of Scotland. Whereas before, bishops had sat in the Scottish Parliament, and had been reliable supporters of the Crown, the Presbyterian church had no bishops, and therefore one channel that the Crown had formerly used to influence Parliament, was lost. Secondly, the Massacre of Glencoe of 1692 was a public relations disaster for the Crown. The massacre was intended to make an example of a clan that had been slow to swear allegiance to William and Mary, and was thus an anti-Jacobite measure. However, it emerged that the orders to carry it out had come from the highest level, from the Lord Advocate, Dalrymple of Stair, and it therefore harmed the reputation of William and Mary’s rule. Thirdly, the Scottish economy was in desperate straits in the 1690s. Severe famine struck in four years of that decade. In addition, from 1695 a Scottish plan to acquire a colony, at Darien on the Isthmus of Panama, captured the imagination of the Scottish people and attracted massive investment. When the scheme failed, Scotland was left sorely lacking in capital, and with her national self-esteem severely battered. It was alleged that William, acting in the interests of England, had sabotaged Scotland’s endeavour. On the other hand, some questioned whether Scotland could survive as a small kingdom in a Europe dominated by large states and empires.