Commentary on Article IV

IV. Free Trade

THAT all the Subjects of the United Kingdom of Great Britain shall, from and after the Union, have full Freedom and Intercourse of Trade and Navigation to and from any Port or Place within the said United Kingdom and the Dominions and Plantations thereunto belonging; and that there be a Communication of all other Rights Privileges, and Advantages, which do or may belong to the Subjects of each Kingdom; except where it is otherwise expressly agreed in these Articles.

The main immediate worry of the Scots commissioners was trade. This was not the era of free trade; the rich colonies of planted around the world were barred to all ships but those of the colonial power, and while Scottish ships had by concession been permitted to trade amongst the English colonies, the English parliament had barred them in 1705, and resolved to keep the Scots out unless a union were negotiated. What Adam Smith of Edinburgh was to teach in a later generation was proven here: Scottish merchants lost their trade and Scotland fell into deeper poverty even than its accustomed state. This was one cause of the bizarre venture at Darien, which sought to plant a Scottish colony in a malarial swamp under Spanish guns. Scots had no representation at Westminster and Westminster was not responsible for them, and yet they were dependent on England’s goodwill to live.

With the union came immediate opening of the ports. The new Parliament now had responsibilities to the Queen’s subjects in the whole of Great Britain and members to ensure it looked to them. No distinction was to be made between Scots and Englishmen, nor was it.

Within a week of the union’s coming into effect, the first ship slipped anchor in Glasgow (then a small town) for America to trade tobacco, and within 50 years most of Virginia's harvest was shipped up the Clyde. Glasgow became the greatest port in the Empire; now a British Empire.