Guide to Scotland
   Gateway to the British Isles since 1996
A Brief History of Scotland

Presented by Peter N. Williams, Ph.D.

Chapter 9: After Culloden

The island of Britain had suffered a tremendous shock by the near success of the Jacobite rebellion. The nation was accustomed to fighting its battles at sea or on territories other than its own. It was unnerving, to say the least, that an enemy army, recruited from its own population, had been able to penetrate so close to the nation's capital. Especially since that army had been composed mainly of Highlanders, a backward people as far as most of the English were concerned. Furthermore it had also been an ill-equipped, ill-prepared and often ill-led army but one that had won so many battles against the troops entrusted to defend the British constitution.

Great relief at the suppression of the rebellion found expression in the first public appearance of the new British anthem "God Save the King." Just four months after Culloden (the old song, often used by supporters of the Stuarts had now been appropriated to lustily praise the Hanoverian king). Fears about future rebellions and the inadequacy of Britain's security were now instrumental in the measures taken to control the Highlands.

The trials held after the '45 showed that the government not only wanted to punish those responsible -- those who held the power within Highland society -- but wanted to prevent a recurrence of the revolt by destroying any social and governmental basis it possessed. The absolute will of the Scottish lairds was to be replaced by the execution of the king's laws. Legislation of 1746 and 1747 was passed to weaken the independence of the Highlands. Public executions of those loyal to the Jacobite cause impressed upon the Scottish people the need to toe the line.

The lands of the Jacobite chiefs were forfeited and a determined effort was made to end the clan system once and for all. Yet, as more than one historian has pointed out, the great lords on the fringes of the Highlands such as Argyll, Montrose, Gordon, Atholl and others lost their baronial rights, in the more remote regions, the power of the chiefs had been patriarchal rather than feudal, personal rather than legal and territorial. It was the inexorable advance of a money economy into the Highlands that followed the rebellion, and not the effects of any royal statute that finally ended their supremacy.

The Disarming Act of 1746 forbade the carrying and concealing of arms, made broadsword illegal and the search for them legal. The wearing of Highland clothes or plaid was prohibited to all except serving soldiers of the Crown. Another act was passed to suppress nonjuring, meeting houses, considered "seminaries of Jacobitism" and "nurseries and schools" of rebellion.

In 1747 the principal heritable jurisdictions were abolished as were regalities, with the latter's jurisdictions assumed by the royal courts. Heritable sheriffdoms were abrogated and their powers transferred to the Crown. In Edinburgh, in 1746, a publication made clear the government's belief that legislation would extinguish the Jacobite menace: "Superiorities display'd: or Scotland's grievance, by reason of the slavish dependence of the people upon their great men; upon account of holdings or tenures of their lands, and of the many and the hereditary jurisdictions over them. Wherein is shown, that these have been the handles of rebellion in preceding ages, especially in the year 1715: and that, upon their removal, and putting the people of Scotland on the footing of those in England, the seeds of rebellion will be plucked for ever."

The great Civil war that had taken place in Britain in the middle of the 18th century, resulting in the defeat of the Highland clans at Culloden, brought to an abrupt end centuries of a way of life that we can call Celtic, for after Culloden and the defeat of Jacobitism, a social system we can simply call British was imposed on the Highlands. For British, we can substitute English, for all hopes of wresting back control of Scotland from Westminster were now effectively ended. Welsh hopes for eventual independence had died in 1536 with the Act of Union. Thus the successful referenda of the 1990's that will bring back limited control of their own affairs to these two Celtic nations is all the more remarkable. After all, even the pipes had been prohibited after Culloden.

Chapter 10: Scotland Resurgent