Making the Union: 1668 and 1670 Union Negotiations

Part 4 of our "Making the Union" series, looks at the Union Negotiations of 1668 and 1670, which followed the Restoration of Charles II in 1660. They did not succeed at the time, but they laid the foundations for the Union which would follow in 1707. This article is written by John Provan who has an MA (Hons) in History. Our colourful pic shows our wonderful activists who continue the struggle and stand up for the ideals of the Union today at our Jubilee Street Stall in Argyle Street, Glasgow, on 18 June 2022. You can purchase our T-shirts and Hoodies here.

On the 19th October 1669, for the first time, the parliaments of Scotland and England began their legislative sessions on the same day. This was no coincidence, but a symbolic gesture given the issue they were about to discuss. Both sessions were opened with essentially the same speech, delivered by Sir Orlando Bridgeman in England, and John Maitland the Earl of Lauderdale, in Scotland.

Bridgeman remarked "that no thing can tend more to the good and security of both Nations" than an incorporating union; hearkening back to the 1603 Union of the Crowns, he reminded his audience that both kingdoms were:

"...under the same Obedience and Subjection for near Threescore and seven Years, having begotten the same common Friends, and common Enemies to both Nations, and having taken off a great part of those difficulties which at the first stood in the way." [1]

Lauderdale showed a similar enthusiasm as he spoke before the parliament gathered at Edinburgh. Quoting a letter sent from Charles II to address his northern subjects, Lauderdale heartily endorsed the monarch's "great and glorious design" for enjoining both the kingdoms "to a strict and nearer Union". [2]

Such enthusiasm was not unwarranted, for Scotland had long suffered through the political impotence with which nearly seven decades of absentee kingship had rendered it; so long as Scotland remained independent, Scots would continue to be treated as aliens in the kingdom where their own king ruled. In Lauderdale's mind, political union would be the best way to guarantee Scotland's equality with England, and end the treatment of its people as second-class citizens.

It is for this reason that historian Antonia Fraser recognises Lauderdale as a patriot and a man who held his country's interests close to heart:

"To Lauderdale the Union offered the Scots the opportunity to flourish equally with England. In his rough and wily way (the two adjectives were compatible where Lauderdale was concerned) he was a patriot." [3]

Such enthusiasm on both sides of the border was essential in bringing about the union negotiations of 1668 and 1670, but the roots of the project lay in the Britannic monarchy of the Stuarts.

Charles II's Scottish grandfather James VI had brought the issue of union to the fore upon his succession to the English throne in 1603, uniting Scotland and England under the same king.