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tion Catholicism. The threat posed by Catholic missions meant that, in
practice, there were limits to anti-Gaelicist policy. When it came to a
choice between linguistic purity and Protestantism, the Kirk chose the
latter. Evangelism in Erse was more than a shade better than a harvest of
souls lost to popery. Durkacz has advanced a plausible explanation for the
linguistic bifurcation which characterised religious policy in the High-
lands from the 1640s: ˜English in education, serving the long-term aim of
civilising and reforming the Highlands; Gaelic in preaching and religious
instruction, serving the immediate end of saving souls and holding back
the Counter-Reformation™.¦” Already in 1567 Carswell had translated
Knox™s liturgy into Gaelic, and a Gaelic version of Calvin™s Catechism
appeared in 1631. Gaeldom was viewed largely as a hindrance to evan-

23 September 1717, in T. McCrie (ed.), The Wodrow correspondence (3 vols., Wodrow
Society, Edinburgh, 1842“3), II, p. 313; Robert Wodrow, Analecta (4 vols., Maitland
Club, Glasgow, 1842“3), II, p. 326; III, p. 383; Andrew Stevenson, The history of the
church and state in Scotland, from the accession of King Charles I (3 vols., 1753“7), I,
˜Introduction™, pp. 3“26. Cf. William Nicolson, The Scottish historical library (London,
1702), p. 203.
¦“ Calderwood, History of the Kirk, I, pp. 42“3; James Kirkton, The secret and true history of
the Church of Scotland (ed. C. K. Sharpe, Edinburgh, 1817), pp. 2“3; James Dalrymple,
Collections concerning the Scottish history preceding the death of King David the Wrst (Edin-
burgh, 1705), pp. 45“7; Stevenson, History of church and state, I, ˜Introduction™, p. 15.
¦“ C. Kidd, ˜Religious realignment between the Restoration and Union™, in J. Robertson
(ed.), A union for empire (Cambridge, 1995), esp. pp. 157“61.
¦” Durkacz, Decline, p. 10.
The Gaelic dilemma in early modern Scotland 131

gelisation, given a lack of Gaelic-speaking clergy and of religious texts in
Gaelic, whether Bibles, psalters or Catechisms. On the other hand,
Gaelic was recognised as a necessary missionary medium. Expedients
included schemes for training Gaelic-speaking boys in divinity. Bursaries
were awarded to Gaelic speakers during the 1640s that they might further
the work of godly reformation in the Highlands. In 1649 the Synod of
Argyll authorised the translation of the Shorter Catechism into ˜the Irish
language™, and in 1651 approved the version of Dugald Campbell and
Ewen Cameron. In 1659 the same synod produced a Gaelic translation of
the Wrst Wfty psalms, and in 1684 the Wrst Gaelic Psalter was published. »
However, the Kirk™s promotion of Gaelic was largely a matter of expedi-
ency. Although the Scottish Kirk was ˜ambivalent™ about the methods to
be used in evangelising the Highlands, the long-term goal was Anglicisa-
tion. The Synod of Argyll which promoted so much of this evangelical
activity in Gaelic contended that ˜the knowledge of English [was] so
necessary for the weall of the Gospel™, and referred constantly to Gaelic as
the Irish language. ¦
The identity of the Kirk appears to have been riddled with anomalies.
Increasingly it drew sustenance from Celtic Christianity, yet it was also
bound up with attempts to remould and eventually to extirpate Gaeldom;
and these anti-Gaelic policies were in turn qualiWed by the exigencies of
the missionary situation. As with the state, the Kirk had an ethnic policy,
one directed against Gaelic culture, but, in general, treated ethnicity as a
second-order dimension of its institutional life, deploying the Dalriadic
past in an indiVerent and instrumentalist fashion.


Whigs, Jacobites and the ancient Gaelic constitution
The Revolution of 1689 heightened the signiWcance of Gaeldom, but did
nothing to reduce the tensions inherent in its ambivalent status at the core
of Scottish political culture. Revolution principles in Scotland were es-
sentially Buchananite, and inextricably linked to the ancient Fergusian
constitution of 330 BC. In addition, the re-established, but unconWdent,
presbyterian kirk of 1690 increasingly came to rely on the legend of
Culdeeism to legitimise presbyterian government as Scotland™s historic
ecclesiastical polity. For the next Wfty years whigs and Jacobites, presby-
terians and episcopalians, waged ideological warfare over the familiar
prescriptive ground of the legendary ancient Dalriadic past. Nevertheless,

 » D. MacTavish (ed.), Minutes of the synod of Argyll 1639“1651 (Scottish History Society
3rd ser. 37, Edinburgh, 1943), pp. 127, 222; Durkacz, Decline, pp. 10, 15“16; Withers,
Gaelic Scotland, p. 115; C. Withers, Gaelic in Scotland 1698“1981: the geographical history
of a language (Edinburgh, 1984), p. 33.  ¦ MacTavish, Minutes, p. 193.
132 The three kingdoms

the Highlands had become even more of a thorn in the side of the
Lowland political nation. The Jacobite war in the Highlands from 1688 to
1691 Wrmly established the military importance of the region in European
grand strategy. In particular, the Scottish Highlands were envisaged as a
potential beachhead for a diversionary campaign on the British mainland
by enemies of the post-Revolutionary regime such as France.  
The new whig“presbyterian establishment was keenly aware of the
threat posed by a contumacious Highlands to the new order of things.
The presbyterian Synod of Glasgow and Ayr noted in 1703: ˜while they
continue in their present neglected state strangers to the gospel, and
bound up to a separate language and interest of their own, they are most
dangerous to this church and nation™. À However, the argument that by
the end of the seventeenth century there was no longer an association of
the Gaelic language with Scottish nationality has to be weighed against
the continuing signiWcance of Dalriada in political culture, and the grow-
ing importance of the Culdees. Anti-Gaelicism, though powerful, con-
tinued to lack any association with an alternative historical identity which
might loosen the reliance of whig“presbyterian ideology on the matter of
Dalriada.
Whig political culture was far from oblivious of its debt to Gaelic
institutions. Clanship was far from being the model exclusively for Jac-
obite“tory patriarchal politics. In Scotland patriarchalism enjoyed a
whiggish signiWcance far removed from English Filmerism because of the
place of the phylarchs in the ancient Buchananite constitution. George
Ridpath (d. 1726) argued that Scotland™s original parliamentary constitu-
tion had been a confederation of clans ruled over in times of war by a
captain-general or chief of chiefs whose rudimentary monarchy was
limited by the suVrages of the various tribal heads or phylarchi, who had
assembled prior to the election of the Wrst king, Fergus I. Ã William
Jameson (X. 1689“1720), a staunch whig“presbyterian who lectured in
history at Glasgow University, recognised the Gaelic dimension of his
political creed. Jameson acknowledged that it had been the phylarchs or
clan chiefs who had elected Fergus MacFerquhard as captain-general of
the Scottish people in the west Highlands in their conXict with the Picts.
Drawing on the ideas of Buchanan, he argued that the clan chiefs had
themselves been elected by their followers. Indeed, Jameson conjectured
that the election of Fergus had taken place because none of the chiefs
would yield to any of their peers lest they concede the superiority of one

   D. Szechi, The Jacobites: Britain and Europe 1688“1788 (Manchester, 1994).
 À Quoted in Durkacz, Decline, p. 49.
 Ã George Ridpath, An historical account of the antient rights and power of the parliament of
Scotland (n.p., 1703), pp. 118, 120, 144, 148.
The Gaelic dilemma in early modern Scotland 133

clan over another. Jameson did attempt to weave together Dalriadic
whiggery together with anti-Gaelicism into a consistent body of historical
interpretation: he acknowledged the corruption of the Highlands, and the
decline into barbarity of Highlanders as the court, institutions and centre
of gravity of Scottish kingdom had moved southwards during the middle
ages. In this way Jameson was able to rationalise the disparity between
attitudes to the historic and the contemporary Gael. However, he was
atypical in his attempt to reconcile the Dalriadic and the anti-Gaelic in his
historical politics: Scots were generally oblivious of the Gaelic anomaly at
the heart of their political culture. •
As the Scottish political nation drew its last breath of independent
statehood before the incorporating union of 1707, it remained wedded to
its traditional confusion over the Gaelic dimension of national identity. At
the Union the many petitions and pamphlets submitted and published in
support of Scottish independence were committed to the 2,000-year
Fergusian history of the kingdom; one celebrated pamphlet denoted
Scotland by the name ˜Fergusia™. ’ The traditional landmarks of Scottish
identity were not immediately obliterated by the advent of British ˜nation-
hood™. The Union of 1707 transformed but did not settle the traditional
dispute over Scotland™s historic sovereign independence: Scots needed
more than ever to convince their fellow Britons that the Union had been a
treaty between sovereign equals, and not the reabsorption within an
English pan-Britannic imperium of a wayward vassal-nation. “
The patriotic exegesis of ancient geography continued to be a staple of
Scottish polemic, whig as well as Jacobite. The Antonine Wall featured in
a patriotic archaeology as the ultimate frontier of the Roman province of
Britannia, north of which lay the unconquered and historically indepen-
dent Scottish heartland. “ Within Scottish political culture contemporary
issues and institutions continued to be Wltered through the lens of Dal-
riadic legitimacy. The Peerage Bill (1719), which proposed the limitation
of Scottish aristocratic representation at Westminster to a permanent
group of twenty-Wve selected peers, elicited the Scottish whig argument
that the Scottish nobility “ a body descended from the phylarchs “ was the
most ancient and treasured part of the Scottish constitution, being older
than the Fergusian monarchy itself. ” Despite the Union of 1707, whig

 • William Jameson, ˜The history, of the wisdom, valour and liberty of the ancient Albion-
Scottish nation™, National Library of Scotland Wodrow MS 97 (ii), V. 141“53.
 ’ [William Wright?], The comical history of the marriage betwixt Fergusia and Heptarchus
(1706).
 “ W. Ferguson, ˜Imperial crowns: a neglected facet of the background to the Treaty of
Union of 1707™, SHR 53 (1974), 22“44.
 “ Alexander Gordon, Itinerarium septentrionale (London, 1726), pp. 135“9.
 ” The dignity of the Scottish peerage vindicated (Edinburgh, 1719), p. 8.
134 The three kingdoms

and Jacobite polemic would resound for the next forty years to the old
debates over the ius regni.À»
The same whig establishment in Scotland which was legitimised by
reference to the authority of phylarchical elections 2,000 years previously
was committed to the extirpation of clanship. The Highlands were viewed
as an alien drag on Scottish society. Not only did Jacobite disloyalty
threaten Scotland™s Revolution settlement, Highlanders also fell foul of
the new secular ideal of economic improvement. Whig policy, though
since the Revolution clearly British in scope and formulated in conjunc-
tion with politicians in London, was heavily inXuenced by the Scottish
whig elite, and given an important non-governmental kick-start by Scot-
tish voluntary initiatives. The paciWcation of the region and the defeat of
Jacobitism were but the initial goals of Highland policy. Scottish whigs
intended to transform the people of the Highlands from a nuisance into a
national resource, that is, economically productive as well as loyal and
law-abiding. Assimilation remained the long-term aspiration. The state
papers contain a wealth of schemes for reforming the Highlands.À¦ Cer-
tain of these Scottish projects would become reality in legislation. The
martial aspects of clanship were abolished in the aftermath of the Jacobite
rebellion of 1715, while the ™45 was followed by a spate of initiatives,
including the abolition of Scottish wardholding vassalage and feudal
courts (which tended to be at their most arbitrary and oppressive in the
Highlands) a new bout of reforms on forfeited estates, and the proscrip-
tion of tartan.À 
The tensions found in whiggery were also present in the political
culture of Scottish Jacobites, who drew upon the same Dalriadic past as
their whig“presbyterian rivals. Some Jacobite historians did exploit
Gaelic history for royalist ends. Patrick Abercromby (1656“1716?) drew
on the researches of Sir James Ware on Irish Gaelic manners and institu-
tions to give a backbone of comparative sociology to his absolutist “ and
prelapsarian “ interpretation of the history of Scotland™s ancient govern-
ment from the era of Fergus MacFerquhard. The fall had occurred
during the reign of Malcolm II who had introduced to Scotland a system
of Gothic feudal tenures which were to undermine the smooth operation
of the benevolent Gaelic despotism idealised by Abercromby.ÀÀ Another
Jacobite historian, James Wallace, put a royalist spin upon Gaelic
À» C. Kidd, Subverting Scotland™s past (Cambridge, 1993), ch. 5.
À¦ R. Mitchison, ˜The government and the Highlands, 1707“1745™, in N. Phillipson and
R. Mitchison (eds.), Scotland in the age of improvement (Edinburgh, 1970).
À  B. F. Jewell, ˜The legislation relating to Scotland after the Forty-Wve™ (University of
North Carolina Ph.D thesis, 1975).
ÀÀ Patrick Abercromby, The martial atchievements of the Scots nation (2 vols., Edinburgh,
1711“15), I, pp. 210“19.
The Gaelic dilemma in early modern Scotland 135

tanistry, a practice which had been used by whigs as evidence for an
ancient elective ius regni. Instead, argued Wallace, selections from within
the derbWne which bypassed lineal primogeniture should be understood
as temporary expedients akin to regencies by uncles during royal minori-
ties. These substitute rulers, according to Wallace, had been assigned the
oYce of rex Wdei commissarius, a term which suggested implying that they
had merely been entrusted with the kingship on behalf of the real hered-
itary monarch. Wallace also argued that the marble chair, or stone of
destiny, associated with the ancient Celtic rite of inauguration had been
the symbol of the Scottish nation™s ancient sovereign independence.ÀÃ
Nevertheless, there was little Jacobite identiWcation with the Highlands
as they really were. Scottish Jacobitism was primarily dynastic, ecclesiasti-
cal and committed to indefeasible hereditary monarchy.À• As Jacobitism
was based in the Wrst instance on notions of political and ecclesiastical
legitimacy, its ethnic associations, like those of other early modern ideolo-
gies, were secondary. The notion of a culture clash between a traditional-
ist patriarchal Highlands and a modernising commercial Lowlands was
developed in the middle of the eighteenth century during the debate over
post-Forty-Wve reconstruction and reform, and would later crystallise in
Sir Walter Scott™s Waverley (1814).À’ Jacobitism was not a Gaelicist
ideology per se. The intellectual citadel of Scottish Jacobitism was Aber-
deen, a university city in the north-east Lowlands, and central to royalist
interpretations of Scottish history were strong monarchs such as James I
and James IV, who had in their reform projects attempted to tame the
Highlands.À“ Despite the reasonable assumption that Jacobites would
have felt a natural aYnity with the Gaelic heartland of their military
support, Jacobite literati were not committed exclusively to a Dalriadic
idea of Scotland. Although most Jacobite historians and pamphleteers
waged battle with whigs over the traditional terrain of the history of the
Fergusian monarchy, there were some Wgures who opted for alternative
ethnohistorical platforms for their political arguments. While it was gen-
erally held by Jacobites that the Stewart line was descended from the
ancient line of Fergusian kings through Banquo, thane of Lochaber and
contemporary of Macbeth, the Catholic Jacobite antiquary Richard Au-
gustine Hay (1661“1736) asserted that the Stewarts were more probably
of British or Norman descent.À“ Another Jacobite historian, Dr George
ÀÃ James Wallace, The history of the lives and reigns of the kings of Scotland from Fergus the Wrst
king (Dublin, 1722), ˜Introduction™.
À• B. Lenman, The Jacobite risings in Britain 1689“1746 (London, 1980); Szechi, Jacobites.
À’ Kidd, Subverting, ch. 7, esp. pp. 158“9.
À“ Abercromby, Martial atchievements, II, pp. 277“80, 291.
À“ Richard Augustine Hay, An essay on the origine of the royal family of the Stewarts (1722:
Edinburgh, 1793).
136 The three kingdoms

Mackenzie (1669“1725) even abandoned the traditional Milesian“Celtic
account of the origins of the Scottish people from Ireland. Instead he
relocated the ethnic origins of the Celto-Scythian Scots in a Germanic
context, among such staple features of Gothicist treatises as the Cimbri
and the Gotones.À”
Ultimately, it was the Jacobite antiquary Father Thomas Innes (1662“
1744) who undermined the evidential foundations of the Fergusian argu-
ment by exposing the forged regnal lists upon which Boece had based his
account of the early Scottish kings. However, Innes was also a creative
polemicist who constructed an equally ancient and Ximsy indefeasible
hereditary Pictish monarchy to bear the freight of Jacobite conclusions.
According to Innes, the modern Scottish monarchy was in fact the
successor of the ancient hereditary Pictish crown, not of the Dalriadic
line. Innes demonstrated, moreover, that the Scots were relative new-
comers to mainland Britain; that they had been for a long time conWned
to a small corner of the west Highlands; and that they had not (contrary to

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