'Of the Union of Britayne': Robert Pont and the Unionism of a Scottish Reformer

A Force For Good activists celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the Union Bridge which physically unifies Scotland and England, over the River Tweed (26 July 2020).

Scottish Unionism has a rich history of thought and action, going back centuries. In this article, John Provan, who has an MA (Hons) in History, examines the British Vision of Robert Pont (1529–1606), who rose to become Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

'Of the Union of Britayne' was a tract published in 1604, shortly after the Scotsman James VI's succession to the English throne, by the Protestant reformer Robert Pont of Perthshire.

Pont was born in Culross in Fife in 1529, and rose to prominence amongst the kingdom's Protestant leaders, becoming Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

He was in many ways a typical Scot of his time – a radical Protestant and an ardent unionist. Indeed, throughout his writings, it becomes clear that Pont's vision of a godly nation was inseparable from his desire to see a full union between the kingdoms of Scotland and England.

He remarked that "peace under one king, one law, one religion and fayth shal be the true happines of Brittaine".

He argued for a complete union encompassing both the ecclesiastical and political spheres, claiming that "for to these tow heads, religion and pollicy, may be reduced whatsoever can be sayed of the gaine arising from the connexion of the kingdomes".

Throughout the tract, he goes on to develop a comprehensive case for union, drawing on a shared Protestant and British heritage, as well as outlining the more practical economic and political benefits which it would bring.