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Celtic antiquity, and the Gothicisation of Scottish manners, institutions
and laws which had occurred during the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
In the later middle ages there had been some appreciation of the
non-Celtic dimension of Scottish nationhood, but it had never been
adopted as a central feature of the nation™s public identity. From the
fourteenth century Scottish Lowland commentators had begun to distin-
guish between the ˜Teutons™ of Lowland Scotland, and the Gaels of the
Highlands, most famously in a section of John of Fordun™s chronicle.¦ Ã
Nevertheless, the ideological imperatives of the continuing struggle to
fend oV English claims to suzerainty over Scotland enjoined adherence to
a Gaelic origin myth. The early modern period witnessed the ultimate
embellishment of Scotland™s Gaelic identity in the polished Latinity of
George Buchanan™s Rerum Scoticarum historia (1582). Buchanan™s
achievement clipped some of the more outrageous elements from the
national origin myth, but ensured the continued vitality of the central
thesis until the eighteenth century.¦ • The only major proponent of a
Gothic alternative to Scotland™s Gaelic identity before the Revolution of

¦   Colbourn, Lamp of experience, p. 119. ¦ À See above, ch. 6.
¦ Ã John of Fordun, Chronica gentis Scotorum (ed. W. F. Skene, Edinburgh, 1871, with
companion transln, 1872), ch. 9.
¦ • C. Kidd, Subverting Scotland™s past (Cambridge, 1993), chs. 2“5.
280 Points of contact

1689 was the feudal jurist Thomas Craig of Riccarton. Craig™s Ius feudale,
compiled in the early seventeenth century, but Wrst published in 1655,
was the seminal text of a tradition of Scottish feudal jurisprudence which
was implicitly Gothicist. Craig™s treatment of Scottish institutions side-
stepped the ancient constitution of Dalriada, as if to suggest that the
nation™s vague Celtic myth of origins had little to say about the practical-
ities of early modern Scottish law and administration. By contrast, Craig
drew attention to the place of Scottish institutions within an evolving
pan-European system of feudal law. Nevertheless, there was no overt
insistence on this Gothic identity.¦ ’
The transition from a predominantly Gaelic to a Gothic political ident-
ity coincided with the appearance of a powerful wave of anti-feudalist
polemic in Scottish political culture inaugurated by the commonwealth-
man Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, who was keenly aware of the decline of
Gothic governments throughout Europe and of the ever-present threat to
the liberties of the British dominions whether from outright absolutism
via standing armies or insidiously via centralisation.¦ “ Of all the neo-
Harringtonians of the late seventeenth century, Fletcher probably preser-
ved most of Harrington™s original anti-feudalist vision. A qualiWed Gothi-
cist, Fletcher criticised Scottish feudalism and was concerned to establish
a fabric of civil and political liberty more attuned to the needs of the
commons than had been the case in Gothic Europe. Anti-feudalism and
an awareness of the progressive dynamic of European history were to be
deWning features of the Scottish Gothicist tradition, characteristics which
were certainly lacking in American political culture, and peripheral to the
Irish Gothicist vision. However, the real watershed here came only in
1729 with the publication of Innes™s Critical essay, which demolished the
Fergusian regnal lists upon which Scotland™s traditional Dalriadic ident-
ity depended.¦ “ The language of the ancient Dalriadic constitution did
linger on in political debate, but from the middle of the eighteenth
century enlightened Scots literati came to adopt a variant of the Gothic
identity which Xourished in England. Within a few decades of the Union
of 1707 Scots acquired the language of English Gothicist constitutional-
ism. Scots pamphleteers quickly picked up the grammar “ unfamiliar to a
nation whose parliamentary institutions had been unicameral “ of triadic
mixed constitutionalism.¦ ”
Moreover, in the middle of the eighteenth century pioneering Scottish
¦ ’ Thomas Craig, Ius feudale (ed. and trans. J. A. Clyde, 2 vols., Edinburgh and London,
1934), I, pp. 49“70.
¦ “ Fletcher, A discourse of government with relation to militias, in Andrew Fletcher: political
works (ed. J. Robertson, Cambridge, 1997), p. 3.
¦ “ See above, ch. 6.
¦ ” C. Kidd, ˜North Britishness and the nature of eighteenth-century British patriotisms™,
HJ 39 (1996), 370“2.
Varieties of Gothicism in the British Atlantic world 281

jurists such as Lord Kames and Sir John Dalrymple of Cranstoun drew
attention to the shared contours of Anglo-Scottish constitutional history
since the eleventh century.¦À» Kames argued that since the Norman era
the common ˜Gothic™ family characteristics of English and Scottish insti-
tutions had accustomed Scots to borrowing many of their laws and
customs from south of the border. According to Kames, ˜the whole island
originally was governed by the same law™. Scottish and English law had
˜such resemblance, as to bear a comparison almost in every branch™.
There was a basic aYnity between Anglo- and Scoto-Norman laws:
When one dives into the antiquities of Scotland and England, it will appear that
we borrowed all our laws and customs from the English. No sooner is a statute
enacted in England, but, upon the Wrst opportunity, it is introduced into Scot-
land; so that our oldest statutes are mere copies of theirs. Let the Magna Charta
be put into the hands of any Scotsman, without giving its history, and he will have
no doubt that he is reading a collection of Scots statutes or regulations.¦À¦
Dalrymple, a disciple of Montesquieu, approached constitutional and
legal history from a similarly Anglo-Scottish perspective in his Essay
towards a general history of feudal property in Great Britain (1757): ˜The
progress of these laws, however little attended to, is in both countries
uniform and regular, advances by the same steps, goes in almost the same
direction, and when the laws separate from each other, there is a degree of
similarity in the very separations.™¦À  Building on this approach, John
Millar treated Scottish history as a subsection of the history of England,
noting that Lowland Scotland ˜had received a number of Anglo-Saxon
inhabitants, who contributed to propagate those constitutions and cus-
toms which prevailed in England™.¦ÀÀ The sceptical antiquarian de-
mythologiser, Sir David Dalrymple, Lord Hailes (1726“92), traced the
origins of Scottish feudal institutions and tenures to the demands of
Gothic migrants to Scotland for written charters guaranteeing security of
possession, adding that feudalism had proved so convenient that the
Celtic natives had soon adopted it in place of their traditional tanistry.¦ÀÃ
There was considerable evidence for the existence in the medieval pasts of

¦À» R. J. Smith, The Gothic bequest (Cambridge, 1987), pp. 71“80; Kidd, Subverting,
pp. 161“2.
¦À¦ Kames, Essays upon several subjects concerning British antiquities (Edinburgh, 1747),
pp. 4“5. See also Alexander Wight, An inquiry into the rise and progress of parliament chieXy
in Scotland (Edinburgh, 1784), pp. 18“19, 41.
¦À  John Dalrymple, An essay towards a general history of feudal property in Great Britain
(London, 1757), p. v.
¦ÀÀ John Millar, An historical view of the English government from the settlement of the Saxons
(1787: 4 vols., London, 1803), III, pp. 13“14. See Robert Heron, A new general history of
Scotland (5 vols., Perth and Edinburgh, 1794“9), I, pp. 144“5, for the statement that the
Anglo-Saxons were ˜the most considerable stock of our ancestors™.
¦Àà Hailes, Annals of Scotland from the accession of Malcolm III (1776, 1779: 3rd edn, 3 vols.,
Edinburgh, 1819), I, pp. 32“4.
282 Points of contact

England and Scotland of an era of shared Norman jurisprudence. For
example, the ancient Scots law text, the Regiam Majestatem, bore marked
similarities to the English juridical handbook associated with the twelfth-
century English justiciar Ranulph de Glanville.¦À• The jurist Walter Ross
contended that ˜both in principles and practice™ the legal systems of
Scotland and England ˜were originally the same™.¦À’
There was an inXuential version of Scottish legal history, propagated
most succinctly by Patrick Swinton, which saw the College of Justice,
established in 1532 on a French model, as an alien and absolutist intru-
sion into the Scots common law.¦À“ Its signiWcance for this school of
interpretation was as a national calamity, not as a matter of patriotic
pride; it was, according to Nicholas Phillipson, tantamount to a Scottish
˜Norman Yoke™.¦À“ However, by the same token, the recovery of an
indigenous legal tradition from beneath this continental system might
best be achieved by assimilation to English legal forms. Not only had
England avoided such continental perversions, but it had retained fea-
tures, such as the civil jury, which had once been the common inheritance
of the English and the uncorrupted Scottish legal systems of the medieval
era. Thus, attempts to import the English civil jury into Scotland were,
largely, initiated by Scots jurists, who saw in this measure of assimilation
the restoration of a vital component of Scotland™s ancient Gothic consti-
tution.¦À” Anglophilia and indigenous patriotism were not necessarily
inconsistent. A pertinent example of this is revealed by the response to the
proposed Judges™ Bill of 1785 which proposed a reduction in the size of
the Court of Session. Five of the nine county head courts which opposed
this measure called, instead, for the introduction of the English civil jury
trial into the Scottish courts.¦Ã» Some Scots argued that civil jury was part
of the ancient Gothic constitution of Scotland which had been corrupted
during the later middle ages.¦Ã¦ Others saw the liberating potential of
innovation and Anglicisation. Yet, despite the diVerent historical twists,
both sides saw the practical beneWts involved. Anglicisation held out the

¦À• Kidd, Subverting, pp. 148“50; H. MacQueen, ˜Regiam majestatem, Scots law, and
national identity™, SHR 74 (1995), 19“23.
¦À’ Walter Ross, Lectures on the practice of the law of Scotland (2 vols., Edinburgh, 1792), II,
p. 4.
¦À“ Patrick Swinton, Considerations concerning a proposal for dividing the court of session into
classes or chambers (Edinburgh, 1789), pp. 11, 15“16; James Boswell, A letter to the people
of Scotland on the alarming attempt to infringe the articles of the union, and introduce a most
pernicious innovation by diminishing the number of the Lords of Session (London, 1785), p. 4.
¦À“ N. T. Phillipson, The Scottish whigs and the reform of the Court of Session, 1785“1830 (Stair
Society 37, Edinburgh, 1990), p. 91. ¦À” Kidd, Subverting, p. 164.
¦Ã» N. T. Phillipson, ˜Nationalism and ideology™, in J. N. Wolfe (ed.), Government and
nationalism in Scotland (Edinburgh, 1969), pp. 170“5.
¦Ã¦ Swinton, Considerations, p. 10.
Varieties of Gothicism in the British Atlantic world 283

prospect of a return to the ancient Gothic freedom once enjoyed by earlier
generations of Scots, but which had evaporated with the Romanist cor-
ruptions involved in the establishment of the French-inspired College of
Justice. If the history of Scots and English laws was essentially a saga of
divergence from shared libertarian institutions, then assimilation within a
united British state suggested a happy ending, a reconvergence whose
basic principles entailed a reinvigoration of Scotland™s original Gothic
jurisprudence.
It was precisely because they did not invest heavily in such myths of
Englishness as the ancient Anglo-Saxon constitution that Scots remained
wedded to union. They did not have unrealistic fantasies about the
heritage of English Gothic liberties. Rather, they held a very sensible
pragmatic view of the beneWts of Anglicisation. To eighteenth-century
North Britons Anglicisation entailed incorporation within a liberal world
of civilised, post-feudal modernity.¦Ã  Scottish Gothicism was both pan-
European and Anglo-British in its outlook. The broader pan-European
perspective simultaneously helped to moderate enthusiasm for the glories
of English constitutionalism and to illuminate the substance of the Eng-
lish libertarian achievement. England™s much-vaunted constitution was
not a unique expression of the English national character from time
immemorial, yet it was none the less exceptional in a Europe where the
Gothic monarchies which had once been limited by powerful nobilities
tended, in general, to become despotisms rather than to develop, except
in one lone case, mixed institutions with a more pronounced democratic
component. Indeed, the Scottish Enlightenment was both Gothicist (in
its rejection of Scotland™s traditional myth of Gaelic origins) and anti-
Gothicist in the way it cut the English Gothic myth down to size.¦ÃÀ Many
North Britons, including Robertson, were tireless critics of the oppres-
sions meted on the people by Scotland™s turbulent Gothic nobility.¦Ãà For
Scotland™s intellectual elite the Gothic heritage was both a badge of some
pride and a butt of an intense domestic anti-feudalism.
Nevertheless, some Scots radicals did adopt unreservedly the language
of Anglo-Saxonism. However, Scottish Anglo-Saxonism was very diVer-
ent from that found in the colonies. It displaced indigenous ethnocentric
radicalism from an unchallenged dominance in Scottish radical culture,
and may well have defused the explosive potential of the Covenanting
tradition to support a Scottish Jacobin nationalism. Moreover, since
¦Ã  Kidd, ˜North Britishness™.
¦ÃÀ E.g. Millar, English government, II, pp. 74“80, on the narrowly aristocratic achievement “
at Wrst “ of Magna Carta.
¦Ãà Kidd, Subverting, pp. 165“84; Kidd, ˜The ideological signiWcance of Robertson™s History
of Scotland™, in S. J. Brown (ed.), William Robertson and the expansion of empire (Cam-
bridge, 1997).
284 Points of contact

Anglo-Saxon liberties were the fortuitous heritage of Scots by incorporat-
ing union, rather than their entitlement by descent, its radical signiWcance
was muZed: Scots could not, unlike the Americans, argue that throwing
oV the rule of a corrupt England would restore their prized ancient Saxon
liberties. Scots radicals too had absorbed the rhetoric of anti-feudalist
propaganda directed speciWcally at Scotland™s native noble caste. Thus
Saxonism and anti-feudalism coexisted in Scottish radical culture with-
out inciting widespread demands for national liberation from England™s
Norman Yoke.¦Ã•
Outside the ranks of the radical movement, Scots were not taken in by
the myth of an Anglo-Saxon golden age. For the historians of the Scottish
Enlightenment, authentic civil liberty was part of the tissue of modernity,
a beneWcent side eVect of the general European processes of civilisation
and reWnement. The English were right to take pride in their heritage of
Anglo-Saxon constitutionalism, but were warned not to mistake limita-
tions on monarchical government for personal freedom and security of
property which prevailed within a defeudalised society.¦Ã’
Scottish Gothicism was diVerent from both the Anglo-Irish and Ameri-
can versions in its intellectual origins. In Scotland Gothicism was very
much a product of the debunking of an earlier chauvinistic myth. As a
result there were in-built sceptical, sociological and cosmopolitan dimen-
sions to Scotland™s Gothic identity. Scotland did not have a deep-rooted
Gothic identity; to some extent this explains why Scottish Gothicism was
not deployed, as in Ireland and America, in defence of threatened par-
ticularisms. The lukewarm Gothicism of the Scottish Enlightenment was
founded on the notion that Scots had borrowed “ rather than inherited “
Gothic manners and institutional forms.¦Ã“

These case studies illuminate the artiWce and contingency which lurk
behind supposedly primordial and natural identities. The language of
Gothic liberty took diVerent forms throughout the eighteenth-century
British world. Sometimes it acted to unite the empire, at others to dissolve
allegiance. In general, Gothicism was a crucial bulwark of British integra-
tion. Hanoverian loyalism was complicated by the problem of Hanover
itself, a dynastic possession whose defence was not in the British national
interest. Moreover, until the personal tribulations of George III in 1788,
Hanoverian dynasticism lacked emotional appeal.¦Ã“ Frayed by confes-

¦Ã• J. Brims, ˜The Scottish ˜˜Jacobins™™, Scottish nationalism and the British union™, in
R. A. Mason (ed.), Scotland and England 1286“1815 (Edinburgh, 1987).
¦Ã’ Kidd, Subverting, ch. 9. ¦Ã“ Kidd, ˜North Britishness™, 382.
¦Ã“ L. Colley, ˜The apotheosis of George III: loyalty, royalty and the British nation 1760“
1820™, P+P 102 (1984), 94“129.
Varieties of Gothicism in the British Atlantic world 285

sional diVerences, the British Protestant cause operated less successfully
as a positive rallying cry than as a vehicle for anti-Catholic prejudice.¦Ã”
To a greater extent than Hanoverian loyalism or anti-Catholicism, Gothi-
cist rhetoric had the potential to create an emotive and fulWlling identiW-
cation with an imagined community of Britons. It combined the vividness
of an ancient ethnic and historical heritage with a direct appeal to self-
interest: the practical beneWts conferred by Gothic descent or incorpor-
ation included freedom, democracy, the rule of law and limitations on the
ability of the state to encroach on the property of the subject without his
consent.
Moreover, the adaptability of Gothicism enabled Scottish and Anglo-
Irish historians to enrich the formation of English identity. The fertility
and durability of the English whig tradition depended on its remaining
permeable. Scottish intellectual inXuences merging with the modern
whiggery of the Walpolean historians fostered the rise of a comprehensive

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