Act of Proscription Scotland's History


1746 On  August  1, 1746 the  Act  of  Proscription  (19  Geo.  2,  c.  39)  came  into  effect  in Scotland.  This  was  part  of  a series  of  efforts  to  assimilate  the  unruly Scottish  Highlands while  ending  their  ability  to  revolt,  and  the first  of  the  ‘King’s  laws’  which  sought  to  crush the Clan  system  in the aftermath  of  the  Jacobite  Rising  of  ‘FortyFive.  These  laws  were finally  repealed  in  1782. The  British  forces  under  the Duke  of  Cumberland  had  been  brutal  in  putting  down  any hint  of Jacobite resistance among  Highlanders,  and  the  Act  can  be  seen  as  Parliament asserting  the supremacy  of  the Civil  Courts  over  unconstitutional  military  coercion. It  was  mainly  a  restatement  of  the  earlier Disarming  Act,  but  with more severe punishments  which  this  time were  rigorously  enforced. Punishments started with fines,  with  jail  until  payment  and  possible  forced  conscription  for  late  payment.  Repeat offenders were “liable to  be transported  to  any  of  his  Majesty’s  plantations  beyond  the seas,  there  to  remain  for  the  space of  seven  years”,  effectively  indentured  slavery.  Dr. Samuel  Johnson  commented  that  “the last law by which the  Highlanders are deprived of  their  arms, has operated with  efficacy  beyond  expectations. the  arms  were collected  with  such  rigour, that  every  house was despoiled  of  its  defence”.  As  well  as preventing  future rebellion  this  made  a rarity  of  what  had  been  a  frequent  occurrence  of  a minor  disagreement  between  two  Highlanders,  always  quick  to  take  offence,  escalating into  a  small  battle  involving  their  friends,  often  ending  in  deaths  or  injuries. A new section,  which  became known  as  the  Dress  Act, banned wearing  of “the Highland Dress” Provision  was  also  included to  protect  those  involved  in  putting  down  the rebellion  from  lawsuits.  Measures  to  prevent  children  from  being  “educated  in  disaffected or  rebellious  principles”  included a  requirement  for  school  prayers  for  the  King  and Royal  family. Claims  that  other  portions  of  the Act  of  Proscription  prohibited  the  playing  of  bagpipes, the gathering  of  people,  and  the teaching  of Gaelic  (the  Highlander’s  native tongue)  do not  appear  to  be supported by  the text  of  the Act  at  the  link  shown  below. The  Act  of  Proscription  was  followed by  the Heritable  Jurisdictions  Act  which  removed the feudal authority  the Clan  Chieftains  had enjoyed.  Scottish  heritable  sherriffdoms reverted  to  the Crown,  and  other  heritable  jurisdictions,  including  regalities,  came  under the power  of  the British  courts.

Act of Proscription
The Act of 1747 came in the aftermath of the ’45, the last Jacobite Rising. It was an attempt by the Hanoverian government to destroy the clan system of society across the Highlands. It was aimed at the Scots that had lately raised and carried on a most audacious and wicked rebellion against his Majesty, in favour of a popish pretender… in a traitorous and hostile manner.
The Act of Proscription banned the wearing of tartan and Highland dress throughout the area, except by the Army.
Government officers were authorised to search houses at will if the occupants were suspected of keeping swords or other weaponry. The Act stated:
…it should not be lawful for any person or persons … to have in his or their custody… broad sword or target, poignard, whinger, or durk, side pistol, gun, or other warlike weapon.
It was not until 1782 that the Proscriptions were lifted, mainly by the efforts of the Highland Society of London
In Full… http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/scotlandshistory/jacobitesenlightenmentclearances/actofproscription/
The highland and lowland clearances
– the forced removal of tenants from the land mixed with changes to land use – resulted in disturbances in 1792, 1813 and later in 1820-21. The ‘Highland way of life’ began to break down with the Jacobite http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/humanrights/documents/glossary.htm#jacobitism
defeat at Culloden in 1746. Highlanders were not to meet in public or bear arms. Even wearing tartan and teaching Gaelic were illegal under the 1747 Act of Proscription (repealed in 1782). The clearances took place mainly between the 1770s and 1850s although some evictions continued in the second half of the 19th century.


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