Treaty of Union

The Treaty of Union is the name usually now given to the treaty[lower-alpha 1] which led to the creation of the new state of Great Britain, providing that the Kingdom of England (which already included Wales) and the Kingdom of Scotland were to be "United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain".[1] At the time it was more often referred to as the Articles of Union.

Articles of Union, 1707
Scottish exemplification of the Articles of Union
The published Articles of Union.

The details of the Treaty were agreed on 22 July 1706, and separate Acts of Union were then passed by the parliaments of England and Scotland to put the agreed Articles into effect. The political union took effect on 1 May 1707.


The status of the Treaty or Articles of Union as an international treaty is challenged by T. B. Smith. He argued that the Treaty is better described as a 'record of negotiations' between commissioners and that the Acts of Union 1707 constitute the actual treaty. The Scottish parliamentary debate subsequently amended the document when producing their Act of Union, which can itself be described as an offer of treaty terms.[2]:75-6

Smith argues further that this debate is redundant because the obligants under the treaty 'disappeared in 1707' and replaced by a new state, which was not party to a treaty, or combined into a successor state to the Kingdom of England. A treaty requires at least two parties, so it ceased to exist with the Kingdom of Scotland.[2]:75-6

This position is rejected by David Walker, who argues that its treaty status is 'amply evidenced' by previous legislation, that the Articles and other legislation refer to it as a "treaty".[3]


Queen Elizabeth I of England and Ireland, last monarch of the Tudor dynasty, died without issue on 24 March 1603, and the throne fell at once (and uncontroversially) to her first cousin twice removed, James VI of Scotland, a member of the House of Stuart and the only son of Mary, Queen of Scots. By the Union of the Crowns in 1603 he assumed the throne of the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Ireland as King James I. This personal union lessened the constant English fears of Scottish cooperation with France in a feared French invasion of England.

After this personal union, the new monarch, James I and VI, sought to unite the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England into a state which he referred to as "Great Britain". Nevertheless, Acts of Parliament attempting to unite the two countries failed in 1606, 1667, and 1689.

Beginning in 1698, the Company of Scotland sponsored the Darien scheme, an ill-fated attempt to establish a Scottish trading colony in the Isthmus of Panama, collecting from Scots investments equal to one-quarter of all the money circulating in Scotland at the time. In the face of opposition by English commercial interests, the Company of Scotland also raised subscriptions in Amsterdam, Hamburg, and London for its scheme. For his part, King William III of England and II of Scotland had given only lukewarm support to the Scottish colonial endeavour. England was at war with France, and hence did not want to offend Spain, which claimed the territory as part of New Granada.

England was also under pressure from the London-based East India Company, which was anxious to maintain its monopoly over English foreign trade. It therefore forced the English and Dutch investors to withdraw. Next, the East India Company threatened legal action, on the grounds that the Scots had no authority from the king to raise funds outside the king's realm, and obliged the promoters to refund subscriptions to the Hamburg investors. This left no source of finance but Scotland itself. The colonisation ended in a military confrontation with the Spanish in 1700, but most colonists died of tropical diseases. This was an economic disaster for the Scottish ruling class investors and diminished the resistance of the Scottish political establishment to the idea of political union with England. It ultimately supported the union, despite some popular opposition and anti-union riots in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and elsewhere.[4][5][6]

Deeper political integration had been a key policy of Queen Anne ever since she had acceded to the thrones of the three kingdoms in 1702. Under the aegis of the Queen and her ministers in both kingdoms, in 1705 the parliaments of England and Scotland agreed to participate in fresh negotiations for a treaty of union.

Treaty negotiations

It was agreed that England and Scotland would each appoint thirty-one commissioners to conduct the negotiations. The Scottish Parliament then began to arrange an election of the commissioners to negotiate on behalf of Scotland, but in September 1705, the leader of the Country Party, the Duke of Hamilton, who had previously attempted to obstruct the negotiation of a treaty, proposed that the Scottish commissioners should be nominated by the Queen, and this was agreed. In practice, the Scottish commissioners were nominated on the advice of the Duke of Queensberry and the Duke of Argyll.

Of the Scottish commissioners who were subsequently appointed, twenty-nine were members of the governing Court Party, while one was a member of the Squadron Volante. At the head of the list was Queensberry himself, with the Lord Chancellor of Scotland, the Earl of Seafield.[7] George Lockhart of Carnwath, a member of the opposition Cavalier Party, was the only commissioner opposed to union. The thirty-one English commissioners included government ministers and officers of state, such as the Lord High Treasurer, the Earl of Godolphin, the Lord Keeper, Lord Cowper, and a large number of Whigs who supported union. Most Tories in the Parliament of England were not in favour of a union, and only one was among the commissioners.

Negotiations between the English and Scottish commissioners began on 16 April 1706 at the Cockpit-in-Court in London. The sessions opened with speeches from William Cowper, the English Lord Keeper, and from Lord Seafield, the Scottish Lord Chancellor, each describing the significance of the task. The commissioners did not carry out their negotiations face to face, but in separate rooms. They communicated their proposals and counter-proposals to each other in writing, and there was a blackout on news from the negotiations. Each side had its own particular concerns. Within a few days, England gained a guarantee that the Hanoverian dynasty would succeed Queen Anne to the Scottish crown, and Scotland received a guarantee of access to colonial markets, in the hope that they would be placed on an equal footing in terms of trade.[8]

After the negotiations ended on 22 July 1706, acts of parliament were drafted by both parliaments to implement the agreed Articles of Union. The Scottish proponents of union believed that failure to agree to the Articles would result in the imposition of a union under less favourable terms, and English troops were stationed just south of the Scottish border and also in northern Ireland as an "encouragement". Months of fierce debate in both capital cities and throughout both kingdoms followed. In Scotland, the debate on occasion dissolved into civil disorder, most notably by the notorious 'Edinburgh Mob'. The prospect of a union of the kingdoms was deeply unpopular among the Scottish population at large, and talk of an uprising was widespread.[9] However, the treaty was signed and the documents were rushed south with a large military escort.

The Kingdom of Great Britain was born on 1 May 1707, shortly after the parliaments of Scotland and England had ratified the Treaty of Union by each approving Acts of Union combining the two parliaments and the powers of the two crowns. Scotland's crown, sceptre, and sword of state remained at Edinburgh Castle. Queen Anne (already Queen of both England and Scotland) formally became the first occupant of the unified throne of Great Britain, with Scotland sending forty-five members to the new House of Commons of Great Britain, as well as representative peers to the House of Lords.

Significant financial payoffs to Scottish parliamentarians were later referred to by Robert Burns when he wrote "We're bought and sold for English gold, Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation!"[10] Some recent historians, however, have emphasized the legitimacy of the vote.[11]

The Articles of Union

The Treaty consisted of twenty-five Articles.[12]

Article 1 provided that the kingdoms of Scotland and England would, from 1 May 1707, be united into one kingdom named Great Britain, with its own royal coat of arms and a flag combining the crosses of St Andrew and St George.

Article 2 provided for the succession of the House of Hanover to the throne of Great Britain, and for a Protestant succession, as set out in the English Act of Settlement of 1701.

Article 3 provided for the creation of one unified Parliament of Great Britain.

Article 4 gave the subjects of Great Britain freedom of trade and navigation within the kingdom and the "Dominions and Plantations thereunto belonging".

Articles 5 to 15, 17, and 18 dealt with a register of British trading ships, customs and duties on import and export, weights and measures, movement, taxes, regulation of trade, and other matters, to ensure equal treatment for all subjects of the new kingdom.

Article 16 required the introduction of a common currency for Great Britain, subsequently effected through the Scottish recoinage of 1707–1710, and the continuation of a Scottish Mint.

Article 19 provided for the continuation of the Court of Session, the High Court of Justiciary, and the separate Scottish legal system.

Article 20 provided for the protection after the union of a number of heritable offices, superiorities, heritable jurisdictions, offices for life, and jurisdictions for life.

Article 21 provided for the protection of the rights of the royal burghs.

Article 22 provided for Scotland to be represented in the new Parliament of Great Britain by sixteen representative peers and forty-five members of the House of Commons.

Article 23 provided for Scotland's peers to have the same rights as English peers in any trial of peers.

Article 24 provided for the creation of a new Great Seal of Great Britain, different from those of England and Scotland, but it also provided that the Great Seal of England was to be used until this had been created; a Great Seal of Scotland for use in Scotland; and that the Honours of Scotland, the Records of the Parliament of Scotland and all other records, rolls and registers be kept and remain in Scotland.

Article 25 provided that all laws of either kingdom that may be inconsistent with the Articles in the Treaty were declared void.


The following commissioners were appointed to negotiate the Treaty of Union:[13]

Kingdom of England

Kingdom of Scotland


  1. The *Treaty of Union 1707*'s status as a treaty has been disputed. See *Status*, this article for more information.


  1. "The Treaty (act) of the Union of Parliament 1706". Scots History Online. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
    "Union with England Act 1707". The national Archives. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
    "Union with Scotland Act 1706". Retrieved 18 July 2011.: Both Acts of Union and the Treaty state in Article I: That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon 1 May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN.
  2. Parliament., Great Britain. (2013). Scotland analysis : devolution and the implications of Scottish independence. Stationery Office. ISBN 978-0-10-185542-6. OCLC 830024593.
  3. "The Union and the law". Law Society of Scotland. Retrieved 14 January 2023.
  4. Scottish Referendums BBC News, accessed 23 October 2008
  5. Devine, T. M. (1999). The Scottish Nation 1700–2000. Penguin Books. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-14-023004-8. From that point on anti-union demonstrations were common in the capital. In November rioting spread to the south west, that stronghold of strict Calvinism and covenanting tradition. The Glasgow mob rose against union sympathisers in disturbances that lasted intermittently for over a month
  6. "Act of Union 1707 Mob unrest and disorder". London: The House of Lords. 2007. Archived from the original on 1 January 2008. Retrieved 23 December 2007.
  7. The commissioners Archived 19 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine, UK Parliament website.
  8. The course of negotiations Archived 21 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine, UK Parliament website.
  9. Karin Bowie, "Popular Resistance and the Ratification of the Anglo-Scottish Treaty of Union," Scottish Archives, 2008, Vol. 14, pp 10-26
  10. The Jacobite relics of Scotland: being the songs, airs, and legends, of the adherents to the house of Stuart. Printed for W. Blackwood. 1 January 1819 via Internet Archive. Ye Jacobites hogg.
  11. Allan I. Macinnes, "Treaty of Union: Voting Patterns and Political Influence," Historical Social Research, 1989, Vol. 14 Issue 3, pp 53-61
  12. The Treaty (act) of the Union of Parliament 1706, Scots History Online
  13. Daniel Defoe, George Chalmers, The History of the Union Between England and Scotland, 1923, p. 112

Further reading

  • Bowie, Karin. Scottish Public Opinion and the Anglo-Scottish Union, 1699-1707 (Boydell & Brewer, 2007).
  • Bowie, Karin. Public opinion in early modern Scotland, c. 1560–1707 (Cambridge University Press, 2020).
  • Bowie, Karin. "A 1706 manifesto for an armed rising against incorporating union." Scottish Historical Review 94.2 (2015): 237-267. online
  • Carruthers, Gerard, and Colin Kidd, eds. Literature and Union: Scottish Texts, British Contexts (Oxford University Press, 2018).
  • Ferguson, William. "The Making of the Treaty of Union of 1707." Scottish Historical Review 43.136 (1964): 89-110. online
  • Ferguson, William. Scotland's Relations with England: a survey to 1707 (1994)
  • Fry, Michael. The Union: England, Scotland and the Treaty of 1707 (2006)
  • Harris, Bob. "The Anglo Scottish Treaty of Union, 1707 in 2007: Defending the Revolution, Defeating the Jacobites," Journal of British Studies (2010), Vol. 49, No. 1: 28–46. in JSTOR Historiography
  • Jackson, Alvin. The two Unions: Ireland, Scotland, and the survival of the United Kingdom, 1707-2007 (OUP Oxford, 2011).
  • Mackillop, Andrew. "Chapter 7 A Union for Empire? Scotland, the English East India Company and the British Union." Scottish Historical Review 87.2 (suppl (2008): 116-134.
  • Macinnes, Allan I. "The Treaty of Union: Made in England." in Scotland and the Union 1707-2007 (Edinburgh University Press, 2022) pp. 54-74.
  • Macinnes, Allan I. "Treaty of Union: Voting Patterns and Political Influence," Historical Social Research / Historische Sozialforschung (1989) 14#3 pp. 53–61 in JSTOR, statistical analysis
  • Murdoch, Alexander. Making the Union Work: Scotland, 1651–1763 (Routledge, 2020).
  • Raffe, Alasdair. "1707, 2007, and the Unionist turn in Scottish history." Historical Journal 53.4 (2010): 1071-1083. online
  • Riley, Patrick William Joseph. "The Union of 1707 as an episode in English politics." English Historical Review 84.332 (1969): 498-527.
  • Smout, T. C. "The Anglo-Scottish Union of 1707. I. The Economic Background." Economic History Review 16.3 (1964): 455-467. online
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