Mob unrest and disorder
Before 1706 reports of unrest and public protest against union were rare. There was an ugly anti-English mood in Edinburgh and elsewhere after the Darien catastrophe in 1700, but no violence.
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- The Old Pretender
James Francis Edward Stuart (1688-1766), only son of James II/VII. He grew up at St Germain in France. When his father died in 1701 he was declared 'King James III of England and VIII of Scotland' by France and Spain, who did not recognise William III as the legitimate king of England.
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However, as negotiations for union progressed, the public mood became increasingly volatile, and during 1706 there was frequent civil unrest and disorder in Scottish towns. Union was gaining acceptance among the Scottish governing, commercial and professional classes, but Jacobites and others made the lower social ranks worry about the burden of taxation they would have to bear. Ministers of the Kirk spread more discontent as they began campaigning against union, gathering momentum in the spring of 1706, just as the negotiations began in London.
Protests over the Articles
In October 1706 the Scottish Parliament met to consider the Articles of Union. Publication of the Articles triggered widespread unrest. Violent demonstrations took place outside Parliament House, and inside there were fears that the building would be invaded by protesters.
On 23 October the Edinburgh residence of Sir Patrick Johnstone MP, the former lord provost of the city, was attacked by the mob. Defoe described the Edinburgh mob as 'a hardened, refractory and terrible people'. On several occasions the Duke of Queensberry was pelted with stones, while other Scots MPs were bullied on their way to and from Parliament House.
Troops sent in
The Earl of Mar informed Godolphin that 'the opposing party's misrepresenting every Article of the Treaty make the commonalty believe that they will be oppressed with taxes'. Troops were brought in to the city with orders to shoot if necessary, and several regiments were placed at Queensberry's disposal on the Scottish border and in Ireland in the event of trouble.
The situation in Edinburgh grew quieter in November. Trouble now broke out elsewhere. Early in November there was rioting in strongly Presbyterian Glasgow. In Stirling, Dumfries and Kirkcudbright (also strongly Presbyterian and anti-union), copies of the Articles were burned at the town crosses, witnessed by aggressive crowds. There were rumours of a 50,000-strong 'Association' being formed in the north, and also of a Jacobite invasion led by the Old Pretender. But despite ministerial fears of armed insurrection on a national scale, the only disturbances in the period leading up to union were local and short-lived.