Most people remember Defoe for his novel, "Robinson Crusoe", which was actually based on an even greater story of a marooned buccaneer, Andrew Selkirk of Largo, in Fife. Few remember Defoe as a paid English spy for the Treaty of Union, given funds to report back and bride MPs. His propaganda work on the Treaty of Union has been used by the establishment "historians" in "Scottish" Universities, or spy centres, ever since. No British left "history" of Scotland would be complete without their opening sentences asserting that Scotland was a "voluntary" member of the Union and an "equal" partner in the Great Britain Empire. The facts of the so called Union have to be fought for as part of our lost history.
Daniel Defoe was probably born in London, 1660, a Presbyterian of modest means. No fewer than 545 titles, ranging from satirical poems, political and religious pamphlets and volumes have been ascribed to him. His ambitious business ventures saw him bankrupt by 1692, with a wife and seven children to support. In 1703 he published an ironic attack on high Tories, was prosecuted for seditious libel and, sentenced to be pilloried, fined 200 marks, and be detained at the Queen's pleasure. In despair he wrote to William Paterson, the London Scot, founder of the Bank of England, Paris and the Darien Disaster, who was in the confidence of Robert Harley, leading Minister and spymaster in the English Government. Harley accepted Defoe's services and released him in 1703. He immediately published the "Review", which appeared weekly, then three times a week, written mostly by himself. This was the main mouthpiece of the Government promoting the "Union" with Scotland.
Scotland was brought to the table by threat of economic sanctions, not to mention a threatened invasion by a large army on the Border in 1704, with even worse terms. The Scottish Parliament was faced with a demand to accept a draft treaty insisting on incorporation and designed to appeal to the self-interests of the classes that represented the Scottish Parliament. Reinforced by bribery and propaganga, just like today. Queen Anne actually described the proposed Union as her "Design Against Scotland".
Defoe began his campaign in the Review and other pamphlets aimed at English opinion, claiming correctly that it would end the threat from the North, gaining for the Treasury an "inexhaustible treasury of men" a valuable new market increasing the power of England. By September 1706 Harley ordered Defoe to Edinburgh as a secret agent, to do everything possible to help secure acquiescence of the Treaty. He was very conscious of the risk to himself. From the letters of Daniel Defoe, (edited by GH Healey, Oxford 1955) far more is known about his activities than is usual with such agents.
His first reports were vivid descriptions of violent demostrations against the Union. "A Scots rabble is the worst of its kind" he reported. Years later John Clerk of Penicuik, a leading Unionist, wrote in his memoirs that, "He was a spy among us, but not known as such, otherwise the Mob of Edinburgh would pull him to pieces". Defoe being a Presbyterian, who suffered in England for his convictions, was accepted as an adviser to the Assembly of the Church and Parliamentary Committees. He told Harley that he was "privy to all their folly" but "Perfectly unsuspected as with corresponding with anybody in England. He was then able to infulence the proposals that were put to Parliament and reported back: 'Having had the honour to be always sent for the committee to whom these amendments were referr'd, I have had the good fortune to break their measures in two particulars via the bounty on Corn and proportion of the Excise".
For Scotland he used different arguments, even the opposite of that used by his propaganda in England. Usually ignoring the English doctrine of the Sovereignty of Parliament, telling the gullible Scots that they could have complete confidence in the guarantees in the Treaty. Some of his pamphlets were purported to be written by Scots, even misleading "reputable" historians into quoting them as evidence of Scottish opinion of the time. The same is true of a massive history of the Union which Defoe published in 1709 and which establishment historians treat as a valuable comtemporary source for their own propaganda. The British left use it in much the same way as Michael Fry, "historian" of the British right. Defoe took pains to give his "history" an air of objectivity by giving some space to arguments against the Union, but always having the last word, just like the "objective" academics of today.
He disposed of the main Union opponent, Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, by just ignoring him: just like today. Nor does he account for the deviousness of the Duke of Hamilton, the official leader of the Squadrone Volante against the Union, who finally acted against his comrades in the decisive stages of the debate. Hamilton was to lead an Anti Union Rebellion of 1708 where Covenanters had marched from Gaelic speaking Galloway (and were betrayed at Dumfries) to unite with Jacobites at Edinburgh. A Highland Army camped outside Edinburgh were given the keys by the town guard to let them in. The Illustrious Duke failed to turn up, due to a toothache, and the French frigates in the Forth had to turn back.
Sir Walter Scott. "It may be doubted whether the descendants of the noble lords and honourable gentlemen who accepted this gratification would be more shocked at the general fact of their ancestors being corrupted or scandalised at the paltry amount of the bribe"
Louis XIV sent an invasion force of 4,500 and the ships were not regular French Navy ships, but privateers from Dunkirk. The fleet, ready to sail by the end of February 1708 with the "Old Pretender" James VIII who came down with the measles, a fataal illness then, taking two weeks to recover. By that time the Royal Navy was ready. The French Commander, Comte de Forbin sailed on March 8 with the Royal Navy in pursuit. There were fewer than 2,550 Government troops in Scotland, many of whom were Scots of doubtful loyalty with the anti Unionist faction ready to rise. Forbin refused to land despite Louis' orders to land at all cost, ditching his ships. He sailed as far as Peterhead, leaving his slowest ship, Le Salisbury to be captured. Despite the Scots providing a pilot with assurances of support he ordered the expedition to abandon and flee north. James Stirling of Keir, Archibald Seaton of Touch and Archibald Stirling of Carden and their tenants turned back on the march to Edinburgh, but not quick enough to avoid arrest and trial for rebellion. Bar a few, held in London for a while, most were released for diplomatic reasons. The exiled anti Union Jacobites in France were soon to plot the anti Union rebellions of 1715, 1719 and 1745 with disastrous consequences. James had to read a proclamation annulling the Parliamentary Union on landing at Peterhead in 1715. The Young Charles also read out a proclamation upon landing at Glenfinnan and to an ecstatic Edinburgh, annulling the Union. His army was not interested in invading England to place him on the throne there.
Defoe made no attempt to explain why the same Scottish Parliament which was so vehement fot its independence from 1703-1705 became so supine in 1706. He received very little reward from his paymasters and, of course, no recognition for his services by the English Government. He made use of his Scottish experience to write his "Tour thro' the whole Island of Great Briton", published in 1726, where he actually admitted that the increase of trade and population in Scotland, which he had predicted as a consequence of the Union, was "not the case, but rather the contrary".
Defoe's description of Glasgow as a "Dear Green Place" has often been misquoted as a Gaelic translation for the town. The Gaelic Glas could mean grey or green, chu means dog or hollow. Glaschu actually means Green Hollow. The "Dear Green Place", like most of Scotland, was a hotbed of unrest against the Union. The local Tron minister urged his congregation to up and anent for the City of God. The"Dear Green Place" and "City of God" requiring Government troops to put down the rioters tearing up copies of the Treaty, as at every mercat cross in Scotland. When Defoe revisited in the mid 1720's he claimed that the hostility towards his party was, "because they were English and because of the Union", which they were almost universally exclaimed against".
Not surprisingly, resentment stemmed from the "Shoalls of English excisemen and other officers" were on their way north to take up their stations. They had been recruited to collect the duties and taxes, which not even their bought men had "negotiated" and at five times their pre-Union level. The fact that Scotland survived owed much to Scots involved in the smuggling industry that grew after the Union. English Tobacco merchants in rival ports, such as Liverpool, protested vociferously about the Scots.
The new and higher taxes had, of course, a greater effect on the ordinary people. Tax evasion on essential foodstuffs, like salt, was endemic. The higher level of form filling and English bureaucracy took time and added to costs and prices. In 1707 the Edinburgh brewers rose and put out the malt fires of those not protesting. From all parts of Scotland there was evidencee of gaugers being attacked by ferocious mobs. Warehouses also came under attack and seizure. The crowd were rarely below 30 or 40 people and up to several thousand, battling for days and described by one historian as a "national sport", but it was more serious than that. The customs men kept requesting more troops. In Fraserburgh one angry mob attacked them with guns, etc, for carrying out their searches for brandy whilst the community was at the Kirk.
Women seem to have been particularly prominent in Dumfries and Galloway. In 1711 there were at least four major disturbances involving all-female crowds. Many industries were discriminated against, such as the Linen industry in favour of the London owned Irish Linen trade. The Salt Tax which hit leather and fish curing devasted the once prosperous town of Dysart so badly that the council had to waive burial fees because the inhabitants were too poor to pay. Ironically, many riots were because some landowners fared better, through adopting the English landowners system, than the non landowning class. The poor were hit both ways. There was also the spectre of the pre-Union famine fears returning amidst plentiful harvests this time. Rioting that broke out in 1720, firstly in Fife then up the whole North East coast lasted from January till March. Ships at harbour filled with grain were holed, riggings were slashed and sails cut down. Crowds ranging from 100 to 2,000 ran riot. The authorities in London, including King George were outraged at these "Insurrections". The British commander in Scotland was ordered to intervene and special trials were held, fearing that the "giddy" mob were potential Jacobites stirring another rising.
The landed changes led to the Enclosure Acts in the Gaelic speaking South West, leading to what historians called the "Levellers' Revolt", when large gatherings tore down enclosure walls. After Culloden the Heritable Jurisdiction Acts were to lead to the Highland Clearances.
The resistance riots, and Acts of Discrimination, are well enough documented and too numerous to detail here. Suffice to say that they are too numerous for the establishment Unionist "Historians" to mention too. The resistance was carried on with the United Scotsmen's Republican Rebellion of 1797, where many of the participants hade made the short transition from Jacobite to Jacobin, as Burns encapsuled. Again, the French Navy and troops were beaten off by the English Navy and Scots weather, leaving the Scottish resistance to another abortive rebellion and punishment. The French did manage to land a year later in Ireland, with disastrous results. A Napoleonic force later landed in Wales and was easily routed and captured.
The Rising of 1820 was also Republican in nature, with the same disastrous results. By the 1840's the Republican and Home Rule Chartists could mass thousands on their rallies and organised the building of the Wallace Monument at Abbey Craig, with a huge opening rally. The aristocracy pulled out of the funding when the masses refused to allow the names of the "Noble" families on the memorial plaques.
By the 1880'S the Highland Land League leaders were calling for Independence, as did the second Highland Land League. The Scottish Home Rule Association was formed in 1886 till 1929, many joining and forcing the Scottish Labour movement to adopt Home Rule and later leaving to join the National Party of Scotland, including the Republicans, Robert B Cunningham Graham, and Dr G B Clark, etc. RB Cunningham Graham was elected Honorary President of the Scottish Labour Party, with Dr GB Clark and John Leslie, an Irish protestant Nationalist and mentor of Jame Connolly.
J Shaw became Chair and Keir Hardie secretary. Most of the native left groups supported Independence and when the Scottish Labour Party, earlier taken over by the GBLP, finally gave up the ghost of Home Rule after the 1945 Labour landslide, the modern SNP began to fill the gap. John MacLean exasperated by the British left of his day formed the Scottish Workers Republican Party, which survived his death in 1923, till near the Second World War.
Devolution was finally granted in a feeble attempt to delay the inevitable and head off the rising SNP vote. Scotland has had its share of Defoes, native and English, long before and after the so called "Union". Now in addition to the Scxottish National Party we have a rising Scottish Socialist Party committed to Independence. The fledgeling Socialist Party is only two years old. It remains to be seen whether the SSP will survive the Defoes in their ranks to help deliver the Scottish working class, who derived no benefit from so called Union, towards real independence.
PARCEL O' ROGUES Robert Burns
Fareweel tae aa oor Scottish fame, Fareweel oor ancient glory,
Fareweel e'en tae the Scottish name, Sae fam'd in martial story.
Now Sark rins ower theSolwaysand, An' Tweed rins tae the ocean,
Tae mark whaur England's province stands,
Such a parcel o rogues in a nation.
What force or guile could not subdue, Through many warlike ages,
Is wrought now by a coward few, For hireling traitor's wages.
The English steel we could disdain, Secure in valour station,
But English gold has been our bane,
Such a parcel o rogues in a nation.
Oh would e're I had seen the day, That Treason thus could sell us,
My auld grey heid had lain in clay, Wi' Bruce an loyal Wallace.
Wi pith an power, till my last hour, I'll mak this declaration,
We were bought and sold for English gold,
Such a parcel o rogues in a nation!
Image 1 - Portrait of Daniel Defoe
Image 2 - Statue of Andrew Selkirk, Largo, Fife
Image 3 - Map of the island where Andrew Selkirk was shipwrecked
Image 4 - Parliament Square, Edinburgh
Image 5 - Daniel Defoe in the stocks circa 1703
Image 6 - Daniel Defoe book, A Journal of the Plague Year