Birth of a Nation

And two start to become one…again. On July 22, 1706, commissioners from England and Scotland agreed to the Acts of Union, which, when passed the following year, would unite the two countries officially and create the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Although England and Scotland had shared a monarch for over 100 years, they still technically remained separate countries at the start of the18th century. There had been three previous attempts at union in 1606, 1667, and 1689, but all of those were, obviously, unsuccessful for one reason or another. By the turn of the century, however, both countries were looking more favorably on the idea of union. England, at the time, was worried that Scotland might find a different monarch once the last Stuart, Queen Anne, died, and Scotland’s badly battered economy needed more cash, which the growing British Empire could provide.

Scotland appointed 31 commissioners to handle negotiations. These included government ministers, the Duke of Queensberry, the Earl of Seafield, businessmen, bankers, and representatives from the Parliament of Scotland. England’s 31 commissioners included government ministers and the two secretaries of state. Negotiations began in April 1706 in London and everyone got down to business. Within a few days, Scotland had agreed to allow the Hanovarians to succeed Queen Anne to the Scottish crown, and England allowed Scotland much needed access to English colonial markets, which would help bolster the struggling Scottish economy. The commissioners reached an agreement in July and returned home so the Acts could be ratified by their parliaments. After much debate and political wheeling and dealing, the Acts were ratified in the spring of 1707.

Following the union, the Scottish parliament was disbanded and the representatives met in London, with the English parliament. It wasn’t until nearly three hundred years later, in 1999, that the Scottish parliament was reconvened. While it has the power to make laws in Scotland, it has no say in defense, foreign affairs, or laws in the rest of the United Kingdom.

 



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