Scotland's Story - H. E. Marshall
Edinburgh was rejoicing at the victory over the Spaniards, when close upon the heels of that news came the news of the utter ruin of the Darien Colony.
The whole land was filled with tears and anger. Almost every family had lost some dear one, almost every household was made poorer. All the money, which had been so eagerly given towards the forming of the company, had been thrown away. It had cost Scotland more than three hundred thousand pounds.
Perhaps the Darien scheme would never have succeeded. It was a dream too splendid, an undertaking too great, for a poor country. The climate of Darien was one in which it was almost impossible for men used to a cold country to live. Although the Spaniards made no outcry until they saw the Scots forsaken by their King, perhaps they really had already claimed the country. But at the time the Scots would allow no such defence. The feeling from end to end of Scotland was that the failure of the colony was due to English jealousy, and to that alone. All the old bitter hatred between the two countries was stirred to life.
Then it was that King William and many wise men saw that the only way to end this bitter feeling was to draw the two countries closer together—to make them one. For although one King ruled the two countries there was no true union between the peoples. But neither Englishmen nor Scotsmen were ready for union, and in 1701 A.D. King William died. Queen Mary had died six years before him, and Princess Anne, Queen Mary's sister, now became Queen.
As Queen Anne's children had all died before she came to the throne, there was no near heir to the crown except her brother, the young son of James VII. But he was a Roman Catholic, and therefore could not reign. And in case there should be quarrelling as to who should succeed, the English decided that it would be better to settle the question while Anne lived. So they passed an act called the Act of Succession, giving the throne to the descendants of Elizabeth, the daughter of James VI., who had married the King of Bohemia, or the Prince Palatine, as he was perhaps more often called.
The Scottish Parliament, on the other hand, passed an Act called the Act of Security, which left it very doubtful indeed as to who they would have to reign over them when Queen Anne was dead. This frightened the English, for they saw that if one King ruled over England, and another over Scotland, the old days of war and bloodshed would soon be back again.
Even as it was the two countries treated each other badly. They seized each other's trading vessels, and annoyed each other in every way. Many of the English saw that it must either be union or war. It was cheaper to let Scotland have a share in English trade than to fight, so they became eager for union. But most of the Scots still hated the thought of it. It meant giving up their Parliament and joining the English Parliament. To many that seemed like giving up freedom—the freedom for which they or their fathers had fought for hundreds of years.
'What! shall we in half an hour yield what our forefathers maintained with their lives and their fortunes for many ages? Are none of the descendants here of those patriots who defended the liberty of their country, who helped the great King Robert? Where are the Douglases and the Campbells? Where are the peers and the barons, once the bulwark of the nation?' asked one old lord, and the tears came to the eyes of many who heard him, as they thought of all the gallant struggles for freedom that their country had lived through.
But the friends of the union saw clearly that whatever Scotland might lose, she would gain much more, and that in the long run union would not mean bondage, but a truer freedom. So they would not give up their point.
The Scottish Parliament met yet once more. For the last time there was a solemn Riding. From every corner of the kingdom the nobles and the people crowded to Edinburgh. Up the High Street the lords and members of Parliament rode, in all the splendour of their glittering robes, each with his train of gentlemen and servants. Trumpeters and heralds followed, then the crown and sceptre carried before the Lord High Commissioner, who took the place of the Queen. The streets were lined with soldiers, and behind them crowded the people with angry, anxious faces, cheering those who were against the union, cursing those who were for it, as they passed. Then the doors of the grim old Parliament Houses closed upon the gay procession, and the streets were once more left to the surging, passionate crowd.
Within the Parliament Hall there was noise and anger enough while the question of union was debated. Tongues said bitter things, hands were laid on sword hilts, eyes flashed hatred. But at last, hard common-sense, helped on by the glitter of English gold, broke down all resistance.
It was agreed that England should give Scotland a large sum of money. This money was to help to repay what had been lost over the Darien scheme—lost by 'misunderstandings and unkindnesses between the two kingdoms,' and also to make up to Scotland for having now to take a share of England's national debt. But, it is said, much of this money was used to bribe the lords, and to buy their votes for the union. This was not very grand or noble of the lords, yet money has often been put to a worse use, for in the long run the union was a good thing.
It was agreed that each country should keep its own religion, and its own law courts, but that they should have the same money, the same flag, the same Parliament, and the same King. It was also agreed that the crown and sceptre of Scotland should never be taken out of the country, and, in case that the English should be tempted to take them, the Scots locked them up in a strong box. This box was put into a room in Edinburgh castle. The window was barred, the heavy door was locked and padlocked, and there, for many years, the famous Regalia, the crown which had been placed upon so many wise and so many foolish heads, the sceptre which had been held by so many strong, and so many feeble hands, remained shut away from sight, until its very existence was almost forgotten.
The patron saint of Scotland is St. Andrew, and the flag of Scotland was a white St. Andrew's cross upon a blue ground. The patron saint of England is St. George, and the English flag was a red St. George's cross on a white ground. To make one flag the two crosses were placed one on the top of the other, and they made something very like the Union Jack; but not quite. The flag that is known and respected all over the wide world was not complete until about a hundred years later, when Ireland's red St. Patrick's cross was added to the other two.
James VI. used to sign his name in French—Jacques. It sounds rather like Jack, and his flags came to be called the Jacks, and when the two were made one it was called the Union Jack, and has been called so ever since.
On the 22nd of April 1707 A.D. the Scottish Parliament rose for the last time. 'That is the end of an old song,' said one of the nobles, and we may believe that he said the jesting words with a heavy heart.
On the 23rd October of the same year the first British Parliament met. And so at last the two nations who had been enemies always, who had in three hundred and fourteen battles killed more than a million of each other, were made one. You may be sure that they did not settle down into friendship all at once. Indeed, a few years later the Parliament of Britain proposed that the Union should be broken, and the proposal was only rejected by four votes in the House of Lords.